The budget chief has denied the allegation, saying he is not responsible for implementing projects and awarding contracts.
Palace orders Benjamin Diokno to stop facing House
Mary Grace Padin (The Philippine Star) - December 18, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has ordered Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno not to attend the investigation by the House of Representatives on alleged “pork” insertions in the 2019 national budget and anomalies involving a government-favored contractor.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel yesterday, Diokno said he would not be able to attend the planned hearing to question CT Leoncio Construction, which allegedly bagged billions of pesos in government contracts this year.

“I’m not allowed to attend. Because what would they want from me? To say that I do not know these people? Then I’ll just issue an affidavit, I don’t know these people,” he said.

Asked if the administration is invoking Executive Order 464, which provides that heads of departments of the executive branch should secure the consent of the President before appearing before Congress, Diokno said, “They are actually studying the same EO, and my understanding is we will not be allowed to attend the probe given the unparliamentary approach.”

Last week, Diokno was called by the House of Representatives for a “Question Hour” during which he was grilled regarding the alleged insertions in the proposed 2019 national budget as well as his involvement with CT Leoncio.

Lawmakers have also approved a motion to subpoena Consolacion Leoncio, the owner of the firm.

The budget chief has denied the allegation, saying he is not responsible for implementing projects and awarding contracts.

“The award of contracts is not my responsibility, it is the responsibility of the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways). And as I said, I don’t ask favors from any of my peers ever since Cory’s (former President Corazon Aquino) Cabinet,” he said.

Cabinet secretaries have slammed lawmakers for asking the President to fire Diokno, and questioned the use of a congressional process to bombard the budget chief with “pre-considered questions,” which they said were not in aid of legislation, but of persecution. 

While a majority of House members wanted President Duterte to fire him, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte took up the cudgels for Diokno.

“The allegations against Secretary Diokno are absurd. He has earned the monicker ‘Mr. No’ for turning down proposals tinged with even just a hint of illegality,” Villafuerte said.

“His integrity is beyond doubt and his track record in government is exceptional,” he added.

Villafuerte’s fellow Camarines Sur congressman House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. exposed the alleged budget insertions in the budget. 

Sen. Leila de Lima described the alleged insertions in next year’s budget as “corruption galore.”

De Lima said President Duterte’s political allies are at each other’s throats over the alleged billions of “pork” inserted into the budget.

“What a circus, to say the least! What a royal rumble!…The matrix of this scheme or scam was traced using the Watergate Scandal’s follow-the-money rule. Thanks to Sen. Ping Lacson whose exposé has opened more than a can of worms,” she said.

Like the war on drugs, De Lima said the Duterte administration’s anti-corruption campaign is a sham. – With Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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