Diokno no-show in House 'well-founded in fact, law'

BUDGET Secretary Benjamin Diokno did not show up Friday, February 8, for the House investigation into alleged anomalies in the proposed 2019 national budget.

In a statement, Diokno assured Congress of cooperation but said there was "no proper notice and not enough time to allow him and other DBM officials and staff to adequately prepare for the [House] hearing."

He noted that the subpoena ad testificandum signed by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and House appropriations panel chair Rolando Andaya Jr. was received by the DBM at 11 a.m., Thursday (February 7), about 24 hours before the hearing that was scheduled for 10 a.m. the next day, Friday.

Diokno sought to reschedule the congressional hearing, stressing that officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) have the right to "proper notice, and a fair and just hearing."

In a separate statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Budget chief's explanation for snubbing the Friday's House probe was "well-founded in fact and in law."

"We thus respect the Budget Secretary’s decision and we are hopeful that knowledgeable men and women of Congress would similarly find the circumstances surrounding the said official's explanation justifiable as they perform their best in passing this year's budget," Panelo said.

Panelo said that while Palace respects Congress as a "co-equal branch" of the government, legislators should give Cabinet officials invited as resource persons "proper notice and sufficient time to prepare."

He said the executive would give full cooperation and if necessary, attend probes and inquiries "in aid of its duty of legislation."

"Congress, however, should accord the same courtesy to an executive official whom it invites as a resource person by observing its own rules such as by affording the invitee, as well as his or her staff, proper notice and sufficient time to prepare for a committee hearing on a particular issue," the Palace official said.

"This way, invited officials can adequately provide Congress the information which the latter desires to be knowledgeable of, thereby rendering the situation beneficial not just to both branches of the Government but more importantly to the people whom we ultimately serve as public servants," he added.

Diokno last appeared before the House of Representatives during a "Question Hour" in December 2018. He failed to attend the succeeding inquiries after House lawmakers grilled him and urged President Rodrigo Duterte to fire him.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Budget chief still enjoys the President's "trust and confidence."

"Basically, the President trusts and believes in Diokno. He has full faith and confidence in Budget Secretary Diokno. He leaves it up to Secretary Diokno to do what is necessary and what is right in the matter of whatever spending or whatever office," Nograles told Palace reporters. (SunStar Philippines)


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