Cabinet secretaries slam House resolution calling for Diokno’s firing

Cabinet secretaries slam House resolution calling for Dioknoâs firing
President Rodrigo Duterte holds his first Cabinet meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of the Malacañang Palace.
Presidential photo, File

MANILA, Philippines — Members of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet expressed support for Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno by writing letters to the president following calls for his removal from office.

The letters were transmitted to the the president through the Office of the Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Thursday.

"I have witnessed the disrespect and utter lack of courtesy displayed by members of the House of Representatives towards Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno," the letter signed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez read.

"The Congressional resolution urging your reconsideration of the separation of powers on the basis of a seemingly biased and hastily called 'questioned hour,'" he added.

House Resolution No. 2365, which called on Duterte to fire Diokno over an alleged P75 billion in insertions of pork funds into the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways, was filed by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez on Wednesday night.

Suarez also accused Diokno of having links to CT Leoncio, a Bulacan-based construction firm, which according to House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya allegedly bagged "billions" in government projects. Andaya was a former budget secretary himself.

Diokno admitted to adding P75 billion to the DPWH's 2019 budget, but denied these were "insertions," and said the increases were "above board." He also denied links to the alleged "preferred contractor.”

"Together with the Build Build Build team, I have carefully examined the records and conclude that Sec. Diokno's actions have all been legitimate and in the interest of the nation," Dominguez said in the letter. "We believe in and vouch for Sec. Diokno's honesty, integrity and competence."

Aside from Dominguez, other Cabinet members who signed the letter include the following:

  • Secretary Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic Development Authority
  • Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation
  • Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat of the Department of Tourism
  • Secretary Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government
  • Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry
  • Secretary Leonor Briones of the Department of Education
  • President Vivencio Dizon Bases Conversion and Development Authority
  • Secretary Fortunato de la Peña of the Department of Science and Technology

“We are dismayed at the House resolution,” presidential spokesperson and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo told reporters during a Malacañang press briefing on Friday afternoon. He added: “The stand of the cabinet is the same stand of the president.”

He reiterated the message of the Duterte that he would “not allow any member of the Cabinet, military or police officials invited to a committee hearing to be treated with disrespect.”

Majority of the House of Representatives voted in favor of the resolution on Wednesday, which questioned the P75 billion allegedly inserted into the 2019 national budget.

“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 resolution read.

Panelo, responding to the House’s call to fire Diokno, said on Thursday that the president did not get involved in the lower house when they selected their leaders during the 2018 State of the Nation Address, when they voted to oust former administration ally House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao Del Norte).

The accusations against Diokno came a week after Arroyo and Andaya were accused of cornering the biggest congressional insertions at a combined P4.3 billion in the 2019 budget, an accusation the Palace said they should answer for.

Both Arroyo and Andaya denied having the biggest allocations and said that they were both unfairly “singled out.” — Ryan Macasero

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