BUDGET Secretary Benjamin Diokno has been directed not to attend the upcoming inquiry of the House of Representatives into the alleged “insertions” in the proposed 2019 national budget amid concerns of possible unparliamentary treatment by lawmakers, Malacañang said yesterday.
Diokno said that he was not allowed to attend the hearing set for January 3 next year in Naga City, but did not say where the directive came from.
“He was not allowed. There is only one who cannot make him go there. It’s the President. So presumably it’s coming from the President,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a news conference.
“Perhaps the fear there is he might again be receiving the same rude treatment. And according to him, if the only question is ‘Do I know these people that they are claiming that I know like the contractor,’ he said, ‘I don’t know them so I’ll just execute an affidavit,’” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte stood by Diokno amid calls from congressmen for him to fire his budget chief over the P75-billion augmentation in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Cabinet official’s supposed involvement with a contractor that bagged billions of pesos in government contracts this year.
The Palace and several Cabinet members also took up the cudgels for Diokno, slamming the House for the alleged unparliamentary behavior displayed by some congressmen towards Diokno during its Question Hour on December 11.
Panelo also said officials of the executive department may either decline an invitation to a congressional inquiry or excuse themselves from the hearing “the moment any sign of disrespect is given.”
“I think the parties have learned their lesson. I don’t think it will be repeated again. Members of Congress are honorable enough to know if they go overboard or not,” he said.
Diokno has denied allegations of anomaly in the budget augmentation and that he supposedly used his influence regarding the allocation of P2.8 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Sorsogon.