Duterte won’t heed House call to fire Diokno
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will not heed the call of the House of Representatives to sack Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno amid allegations of “insertions” in the 2019 national budget, Malacañang said Friday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace was “dismayed” over House Resolution No. 2365, urging the President to reconsider the appointment of Diokno.
Minority Leader Danilo Suarez filed the resolution on Thursday and was immediately adopted during the plenary session.
“We are dismayed with the resolution,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Suarez and Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. have accused Diokno of orchestrating the “insertion” of some P75 billion in the 2019 national budget.
Diokno, during the “question hour” at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, admitted the P75 billion after he was grilled by lawmakers on the national budget but clarified that it should not be called “insertions” because “it’s part of the budget process.”
Panelo during the Palace briefing read the joint statement of the Cabinet members expressing their support to Diokno.
The Cabinet slammed how lawmakers questioned Diokno during his appearance at the lower chamber.
“It is incumbent upon Congress to accord utmost respect, show sobriety and observe the demands of ethical refinements when inviting officials from the other branches of government in their committee hearings,” the joint statement read by Panelo stated.
The statement said “officials are invited as resource persons to shed light on issues of national concern that our lawmakers hope to hear and understand.”
“Akin to when the Palace calls on the honorable leaders and members of Congress, the Executive Branch must show them courtesy befitting their positions (as it has religiously observed before),” the statement read.
“The Palace accordingly hopes that there would be no repeat of the recent incident in the House of Representatives involving our Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno.”
“This unparliamentary behavior,” the statement added,“has no place in the hallowed grounds of Congress, where members are referred to as ‘Honorable’ as they represent their districts or sectors.
There is no honor in browbeating a fellow worker and officer in government.”
Panelo also read the statement of Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, a former lawmaker, saying “to use a congressional process to bombard Secretary Diokno with preconceived questions and answers in aid not of legislation but of persecution and excuriating him with baseless allegations is a mockery of basic standard democratic procedures.”
Panelo, quoting Nograles, said the resolution was politically motivated.
He likewise quoted Ecoonomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia who said that “we have carefully examined the records and conlcude that Secretary Diokno’s actions have all been legitimate and in the interest of the nation and we believe in and vouch for Secretary Diokno’s honesty, integrity and competence and stand by him and trust the wisdom if the President.
Meanwhile, Panelo said Tugade scored lawmakers for their “disrespect and utter lack of courtesy… toward Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
“The congressional resolution urging the DBM secretary’s appointment is a sheer violation of the separatuon of powers on the basis of seemingly biased and hastily called question hour,” Panelo said, quoting Tugade.
On the other hand, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña “is also outraged by the manner by which Secretary Diokno underwent arguing that he does not deserve it, a member of the
Cabinet, and also that of members of Congress,” according to Panelo.
Asked if the President shares the same sentiment with the Cabinet members, Panelo said, “Yes, it’s the same stand of the President.”
“The President has already made statements on that that he will not allow any member of the Cabinet or any member of the military or policeman officials who are invited in a committee hearing to be treated with disrespect. After all, we’re all workers of the government,” he said.
Gov’t officials to decline
Panelo said the Palace would not allow the same incident to happen again.
“We will not allow a similar incident from taking place,” he said.
He explained that “we have many options. Let’s say two options.”
“One, we will decline any invitation if we feel that they will be repeating the same kind of treatment that a member of Congress would suffer in the process,” he said.
“Number two, we will go there if invited, but the moment any sign of disrespect is given a member of Cabinet, we will excuse ourselves and beg leave from the committee hearing,” he added.
He said lawmakers should “should exercise the demands of ethical refinements.”
“Meaning to say, they should be exercising courtesy and civility with each other in the manner by which we perform our constitutional duty,” he said.
Panelo cited how Andaya “arrogantly” threw questions to Diokno and “mocked him.”
“But in fairness to the members of Congress, it is only one or two that made the behavior of disrespect and I suppose not all of them agree with the way Secretary Diokno was treated,” he said.
He said the Palace was “disappointed” that the national budget would not be passed on time.
“Certainly because we thought since we submitted the budget on the first day when we are supposed to have 30 days within which to submit. We are of course disappointed that it did not pass as expected,” he said.
Despite the incident on Diokno, Panelo said the relationship of the Palace and the House of Representatives “is still cordial.”
“Hopefully these incidents are isolated and it will not be repeated. I think it will not be repeated.”/kga
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