MANILA - Malacañang on Wednesday said it still trusts Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno amid allegations of impropriety and conflict of interest in his “insertion” of P75 billion in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“Definitely,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said when asked whether the Palace still backs Diokno as he faced questions on the alleged insertion.
“Mr. Diokno is known to be the ‘Mr. No,’ meaning he’s a man of integrity. So when he says he’s not involved, I believe him. Unless you show me, as a lawyer, competent evidence to the contrary, the presumption is he is a man of competence and integrity.”
Diokno, who also served as budget secretary under the Estrada administration, butted heads with Arroyo-time budget chief and now House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. over the addition of a P51-billion budget for the DPWH.
Diokno maintained that there was nothing anomalous with the amount added to the DPWH budget. He said any changes in the budget proposal for a department is part of the budget process.
He said the DPWH requested a budget of P652 billion for 2019, but the administration approved only P480 billion. But since the government wanted the infrastructure budget to be higher, the DPWH's 2019 appropriation was "augmented” by P75 billion, raising its total budget to P555 billion.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez also grilled Diokno during Tuesday’s question hour about his supposed influence in the allocation of P2.8 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Casiguran, Aurora and Sorsogon in Bicol.
Suarez alleged that Diokno approved the budget because of “emotional and family reasons.”
Diokno’s daughter is married to the son of Sorsogon Vice Governor Ester Hamor and Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor.
The budget chief vehemently denied having wielded his influence to benefit his in-laws.