Cabinet members rally behind Diokno

By Jelly Musico

December 14, 2018, 5:55 pm

MANILA – Cabinet members have rallied behind Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno amid call by congressmen for his removal over infrastructure funding allegedly inserted in the proposed PHP3.7 trillion 2019 national budget.

During Friday’s Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed that at least eight cabinet members threw support and slammed the House of Representatives members for display of “disrespect and utter lack of courtesy” toward Diokno in a recent "seemingly biased and hastily called Question Hour".

“To use the congressional process to bombard Sec. Diokno with pre-considered questions and answers in aid – not of legislation – but of persecution and excoriating him with baseless allegations is a mockery of standard democratic procedures,” they said in their letter submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte.

According to news reports, a House Resolution No. 2365 filed by House minority leader Danilo Suarez was approved asking Duterte to "reconsider" appointment of Diokno.

Diokno has maintained there was nothing wrong with PHP75 billion added to the Department of Public Works and Highway budget.

He said the increases were "aboveboard" and part of the budget process.

The Cabinet members said they have carefully examined the records and "conclude that Sec. Diokno’s actions have all been legitimate and in the interest of the nation".

“We believe in and vouch for Sec. Diokno’s honesty, integrity and competence. We continue to stand by him and trust your wisdom,” they added in their letter to the President.

Among Cabinet members who expressed support for Diokno include: Secretaries Carlos Dominguez of Finance, Ernesto Pernia (Socio-Economic Planning), Arthur Tugade (Transportation), Bernadette Romulo-Puyat (Tourism), Fortunato dela Peña (Science and Technology), Eduardo Año (Interior and Local Government), Ramon Lopez (Trade and Industry), and Bases Conversion and Development (BCDA) president and CEO Vivencio Dizon.

Meanwhile, Panelo said “it is incumbent upon” Congress members to accord utmost respect to fellow workers of government even from other branches.

Panelo said he saw how House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya "arrogantly" threw questions to Diokno and “how he mocked him” during Question Hour in Congress last Tuesday.

“Officials are invited as resource persons to shed light on issues of national concern that our lawmakers hope to hear and understand,” Panelo said.

“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 the government,” he added.

Panelo said the executive branch “will not allow” a similar incident from taking place in the future.

“I supposed having said our stand, they (Congress) would know that this time we will not allow any further disrespect to fellow worker of government,” Panelo said.

“They 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,” headed.

He warned they will decline an invitation if the same kind of treatment will be repeated by any member of Congress. (PNA)