Lawmakers canât force me to violate Constitution â Diokno
Diokno reiterated that funds for the pay hike are included in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for this year, which the House of Representatives and Senate still have to finally approve.
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Lawmakers can’t force me to violate Constitution – Diokno
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - January 11, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno yesterday stood his ground in his tug-of-war with congressmen and senators on this year’s fourth and last tranche of the salary increase of over a million government workers.

“There’s no legal basis for that,” he said in a television interview, referring to the payment of the increase that is supposed to start this month.

“They cannot force me to do something that is unconstitutional,” he said.

Diokno reiterated that funds for the pay hike are included in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for this year, which the House of Representatives and Senate still have to finally approve.

At a press conference also yesterday, Diokno said there would definitely be an increase, “not just possibility.” But the amount of increase “is not yet determined,” he stressed.     

The budget proposal is pending with the Senate, which failed to pass it before 2018 ended due to its late transmittal by the House. Senators expect to approve it next month.

Diokno also reminded critics that Executive Order No. 201, series of 2016, provides that the implementation of salary hikes is “subject to appropriations by Congress.”

“Accordingly, Section 15 of the same EO, in identifying the funding source for the salary adjustments, provides that the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) shall be authorized to implement or adjust the compensation corresponding to the appropriations provided in the General Appropriations Act (GAA),” he added.

Diokno also revealed the DBM has organized a task force to study the planned salary adjustment.

“We are going to hire a third party to study the wage structure. So what we’re doing now is what would be the salary structure of the private sector, (and) we will compare our salary structure,” he said.

‘Sue me’

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. has vowed to file a case against Diokno with the Supreme Court to force him to release funds for the government workers’ pay increase.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has shared Andaya’s stand on the issue. Other senators, including Bam Aquino, have asked the budget secretary to start paying the increase on Tuesday, Jan. 15.

Diokno welcomed Andaya’s threat to hale him to court.

“Then sue me. Go to the Supreme Court. But that is the law,” he said, reacting to Andaya’s threat.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte supported the budget chief’s stand, saying Diokno could not release the necessary funds “until such time that the 2019 budget plan is passed.”

He said as a former budget secretary, Andaya should know that the payment of the pay adjustment “is contingent on the passage of this year’s budget.”

“Secretary Diokno would be committing an illegal act if he were to release the funds for the salary hike even if the government is still running on a reenacted 2018 budget,” he said.

Villafuerte blamed the failure of Congress to finally approve the 2019 spending bill on the House’s “delayed submission” of the measure to the Senate and the “senators’ subsequent concerns” over changes congressmen had introduced in the budget proposal.

 “In the past six months, the House production of laws was high, in the hundreds. Daily we were clearing legislation. We have passed all the President’s major bills. We did this without curtailing debate,” Andaya said.

“And we did not mince words when bad legislation came our way. And we were proactive and even anticipated the administration’s needs. There is no greater proof of my loyalty to the President than that. Hindi pa niya hinihingi ang alcohol taxes, inunahan na naming ipasa (Even before he sought alcohol taxes, we had them approved in advance),” he said.

Villafuerte accused Andaya of “subverting Malacañang with his nonstop maneuvers to further derail the already-delayed approval of the 2019 national budget, which puts flesh into the President’s priority programs this year to attack poverty and sustain high growth.” 

“Andaya does not deserve to remain a minute longer as House majority leader for committing acts inimical to the interests of the government and of the people, especially the poor who have elected the President based on the promise that he would bring real change and liberate them from poverty during his watch,” he said.

Jan. 14 “should be the day of reckoning,” Villafuerte, vice chairman of the House appropriations committee, said, referring to the date Congress resumes session. “It is time for the majority coalition that is fully supportive of President Duterte to ask Andaya: are you with us or against us?”

“My fellow Bicolano legislator has unfortunately become the odd man out in the current House leadership, given that his No. 1 job as majority leader is to shepherd through the bigger chamber the legislative agenda of the government, including the annual GAA, that would let President Duterte deliver on his campaign promises to the Filipino people,” Villafuerte said.

He added Andaya’s “failure or refusal to put an immediate stop to his endless tirades against the national budget, would be a confirmation of a long-nagging suspicion that he is a sleeper agent of the political opposition out to destabilize the administration.”

He called Andaya “the No. 1 political arch foe of President Duterte in the House with his continuing hatchet job against Diokno and the DBM that is obviously meant to torpedo the passage of the proposed 2019 GAA.”   – With Mary Grace Padin, Delon Porcalla

BENJAMIN DIOKNO
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