MANILA

Palace hands off House-Diokno conflict

MALACAÑANG on Tuesday, January 29, distanced itself from the House of Representatives' decision to issue a show-cause order against Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for skipping the chamber's previous hearings into controversies hounding the proposed 2019 budget.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace would give Diokno the freedom to "decide for himself" after the House appropriations committee sought the Budget chief's explanation on his repeated refusal to attend legislative inquiries on alleged irregularities in the proposed national budget for this year.

"That is the call of Secretary Diokno. Since it's directed to him, we'll wait for his response. Sa ngayon (As of now), we will let him decide for himself," Panelo told Palace reporters.

"I will leave it to Secretary Diokno -- his stand. If he feels that he needs the official intervention of the President, then he will raise that in the Cabinet," he added.

The House appropriations panel decided to issue a show-cause order against Diokno to let him explain why he should not be cited in contempt for failure to attend the hearings on alleged irregularities in the appropriation of state funds.

Diokno last attended the House of Representatives's "Question Hour" on December 10. He then skipped succeeding hearings after being grilled by House lawmakers during the Question Hour because of issues surrounding the proposed 2019 budget.

Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya Jr., chairman of House appropriations panel, earlier accused Diokno of inserting P75 billion in the proposed 2019 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways without the knowledge of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.

In a previous press conference, Panelo said Duterte had instructed Diokno to skip the House inquiry because of the lawmakers' "rude treatment."

Panelo, in his latest remark, said the executive branch would not oppose the House committee's move unless "there is an abuse of the exercise that is given them by the Constitution."

"Trabaho ng Kongreso 'yun (That's the job of Congress). Unless there is an abuse of the exercise that is given them by the Constitution, we will oppose," he said.

However, the Palace official believed that the show-cause order was somehow "premature" since Diokno has a "valid excuse" in skipping the congressional hearings.

"That's part of the duty of Congress, as I said. Unang-una, bakit nga pala may show cause? Nag-decline na ba siya? Mukha yatang premature 'yung show cause. Meron siyang excuse. Sumulat siya," he said.

(That's part of the duty of Congress, as I said. First and foremost, why is there a show-cause order? Did he decline? It seems premature to issue a show-cause order. He has an excuse. He wrote a letter.)

"Halimbawa, meron siyang previous engagement, that's a valid excuse. Kung meron siyang sakit, that's a valid excuse. Kung 'yung show cause is based on just hindi siya naka-attend na valid ang excuse, premature 'yun. But even then, Secretary Diokno has the opportunity to respond. Kasi kapag sinabi mong show cause, you explain to us why," he added.

(For example, he had a previous engagement, that's a valid excuse. If he's sick, that's a valif excuse. If the show-cause order is based on just his failure to attend because of a valid excuse, that's premature. But even then, Secretary Diokno has the opportunity to respond because the show-cause order gives you opportunity to explain to us why.) (SunStar Philippines)


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