Duterte still trusts budget chief Diokno - Palace

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 13 2018 10:44 AM | Updated as of Dec 13 2018 11:39 AM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte still trusts Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, the Palace said Thursday, after the House of Representatives issued a resolution calling for his removal.

A day before going on Christmas break, the chamber adopted House Resolution No. 2365 urging President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider the appointment of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno following Tuesday's question hour involving the alleged P75 billion “insertion” in the proposed 2019 budget.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said for Duterte, Diokno’s record in government is “unblemished.”

“While we respect House Resolution No. 2365 which urges the Office of the President to reconsider the appointment of Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno as an expression of sentiment from a separate branch of the government, we similarly wish to express that the President continues to trust the Budget Secretary and the confidence reposed on him remains unimpaired,” Panelo said in a statement.

"As one of the Administration's economic managers, PRRD considers him as one of the best and brightest in his official family. Sec. Diokno's reputation as an upright, competent and honest public servant stays solid up to this day.”

The resolution cited that when lawmakers questioned Diokno, "the issues on the augmentation in the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) without the DPWH Secretary’s knowledge and consent remains unresolved.”

The proposed DPWH budget for 2019 was known to have increased to P555 billion after P75 billion was added to the administration-approved P480 billion due to government's need for a higher infrastructure budget. 

Diokno maintained that there was nothing anomalous with the budget augmentation and that any changes in a department's budget proposal was part of the process.

But the House resolution asserted that “such insertion, if proven, is illegal and ultra vires (beyond one's authority) for it bypassed the authority of the President, through its line agencies, to submit its proposed budgets for 2019.”

HR No. 2365 also said Diokno failed to explain how a sole proprietorship construction company was able to obtain numerous projects from the government in Sorsogon, amounting to billions of pesos. 

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, who questioned Diokno about his supposed influence in the allocation of P2.8 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Casiguran, Aurora and Sorsogon in Bicol, said the budget secretary should resign out of delicadeza.

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.

Panelo stressed that Congress, “has the constitutional duty to scrutinize the budget and even has the power to revise or amend proposals found in it.”

“Should it feel that there was irregularity in the allocation of the budget, it can always correct it apart from having the option of recommending the filing of charges against those they deem are responsible for the transgressions should the same amount to a crime. In the same manner that the President doesn’t tell Congress who it will choose as its officers and how to go about it, we wish that its members return the same courtesy,” he said.