WHILE senators are still bitterly locking horns whether or not to conduct an investigation on the issue of “double appropriations” in the 2008 national budget, former budget secretary Emilia Boncodin would like to give those involved in the recent controversy the benefit of the doubt, saying this could only be a simple “technical mistake.”

Yet Boncodin wonders just the same why such negligence, unheard of until recently, had crept into the budget process, and why the government took a while to acknowledge the matter.

Sa tingin ko nagkamali lang. They (legislators) thought it’s not yet appropriated so they put it in. It’s probably as simple as that,” says Boncodin of the P200-million redundant appropriation for supposedly the same road extension project that Senator Panfilo Lacson linked to Senate President Manuel Villar a couple of weeks ago.

Lacson found one entry in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) budget meant for the “construction of Pres. Garcia Avenue Extension from the SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) to Sucat Road including ROW (right of way)” as part of locally funded road projects to decongest traffic in Metro Manila.

However, a second entry, under the subheading “Urgent Infrastructure Including Local Projects,” also referred to a similar road project involving the C-5 Road Extension, which has since been renamed Pres. Carlos P. Garcia Avenue.

Following Lacson’s revelation, a DPWH official claimed that the similar entries are actually two components of just one project involving the alignment of the C-5 Road — a 300-meter, four-lane flyover in front of the SM shopping mall on Sucat Road, and an 800-meter, six-lane highway in Las Piñas.

Another former budget secretary, Dr. Benjamin Diokno, had earlier doubted DPWH’s claim, saying that the “double entries” cannot refer to two separate projects of the same highway. Diokno pointed out that the entry which mentioned Pres. Garcia Avenue Extension is a congressional initiative (an insertion done by a legislator during the bicameral conference committee), while the other, which mentioned C-5 Road Extension, is what was originally proposed in the Executive’s budget.

In either case, Boncodin says there was evidently negligence committed. As she sees it, the Senate finance committee, or whoever handles the DPWH budget in the technical staff of the Senate, apparently failed to consult with the agency about the project.

“Unless you know it’s the same (project), it’s possible that it escaped you then. It’s possible that even the (Senate) technical staff forgot about it,” Boncodin says, admitting that she would also likely fail to see the double entries herself as she is no expert in infrastructure budgeting.

That is why she advises that consultations be done with the agency. “The expert at the DPWH would know it. Ang expert naman talaga yung nasa agency.”

If it’s the same project, Boncodin also says that the amount could have simply been added to the existing appropriation for that project, with the project details being made more specific.

Kung pareho, pwedeng nilagay nila halimbawa, Kilometer X to Kilometer Y, then Kilometer Y to Kilometer Z,” she explains.

“If it’s a flyover, they should have put flyover there. They should call it what it is,” says Boncodin. “It stretches my imagination to believe what they are now claiming.”

What also puzzles Boncodin is why it took some time for the government to confront the matter.

“It’s simple to admit a mistake. If there’s nothing wrong, why did they not explain it outright so there won’t be any suspicions? But what they did was to dilly-dally and obfuscate the issue,” she says.

While there are safeguards against releases of double appropriations, with allocations from congressional initiatives not immediately disbursed as approval from Malacañang is first sought, Boncodin says she could not recall any instance like this happening before. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), she says, even has a statement of difference that helps it track the changes made to the version of the budget proposed by the Executive.

So how could these double appropriations have slipped past the DBM when it thoroughly reviews the budget, line by line?

The fault, Boncodin says, probably lies in the haste to have the 2008 budget enacted. At the time it was finally passed in Congress, the budget was already delayed by three months.

“In anything being hastily done, you’re liable to commit mistakes,” she says.

Boncodin served as DBM secretary from 1998 up to 2005. At the height of the “Hello, Garci” scandal in July 2005, she, along with seven Cabinet secretaries and two senior revenue officials (later known as the “Hyatt 10”), resigned their posts and called on Arroyo to resign.

2 Responses to Arroyo’s former budget chief sees negligence in ‘double entry’ controversy


Pedestrian Observer GB

September 24th, 2008 at 2:44 am

On the surface it appears to be an “honest mistake” but what is troubling is when the actual budget increased due to insertions as mentioned in Lacson’s privilege speech.

The bigger issue here is the conflict of interest and if said project was a product of exerting undue political position (Villar) and influence (Velarde) who are known to own realty development company that benefits from the project.


Ambuot Saimo

September 24th, 2008 at 5:41 am

While we are in this… I think it’s worth looking/checking back the previous budgets. Baka dating gawi na ito ng mga walanghiyang sindikatong tinatawag nating “honorables” at ngayon lang nahuli.

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