Cabinet in full force behind Diokno amid House ouster call
Members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet rushed to the defense of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno against calls by the House of Representatives to oust him.
House members, who had grilled Diokno early this week on the proposed P3.575 trillion national budget for 2019, passed Resolution 2365 urging Mr. Duterte to rethink the budget chief’s appointment.
“This unparliamentary behavior 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,” said presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
He added: “We will not allow a similar incident from taking place.”
Panelo made the remarks in a press briefing on Friday as Diokno’s colleagues in the Cabinet expressed their support for the beleaguered budget secretary.
Cabinet members wrote Mr. Duterte not only to support Diokno but also to criticize the conduct of some House members.
“We have witnessed the disrespect and utter lack of courtesy displayed by members of the House of Representatives towards Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno,” said most of the letters to the President.
Among those who wrote Mr. Duterte in support of Diokno were Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Pena, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
They all agreed that the congressional process that seemed to have prosecuted Diokno with “baseless allegations” mocked democratic procedures.
The swift submission and approval of the resolution against Diokno showed that it was “politically motivated and reeks of power play and ill purpose,” they said.
“The congressional resolution urging the reconsideration of the DBM secretary’s appointment is a sheer violation of the separation of powers on the basis of a seemingly biased and hastily called ‘Question Hour,’” the Cabinet members said.
Panelo warned that Cabinet members may not attend hearings at the House because they could just be disrespected, or leave when “any sign of disrespect” is shown.
The President will not allow any member of the executive branch to be treated with disrespect, he added.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., one of Diokno’s critics, claimed that most of the alleged P75 billion “executive pork insertions” had already been bidded out, with 30 infrastructure projects given to a Bulacan-based contractor even before the budget was passed by Congress.
Another critic, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, accused Diokno of influencing the approval of P2.8 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Casiguran, Sorsogon, whose vice governor, Ester Hamor, is the mother-in-law of the budget secretary’s daughter.
Reacting to Panelo’s threat that Cabinet members may walk out of hearings, Andaya indicated that Malacanang also should treat the House with respect.
“Amor con amor se paga (Love is paid with love),” he said on Friday.
House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told reporters she supported Andaya’s “crusade,” saying the House was just performing its oversight functions.
“The House is a collegial body, so I cannot dictate on anybody among them. So what the House votes for, what the House makes decisions on—that’s part of their role as legislature,” she said.
Panelo also said the President would not be calling a special session of Congress to pass the budget at the request of the Senate.
This means that the government will work with an reenacted budget next year. WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.