Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said Friday he would snub future hearings of the House of Representatives on alleged anomalies
in the proposed 2019 national budget and simply send written replies to their questions because lawmakers were being “disrespectful.”
“They have crossed the line. They have been disrespectful. They did not give me a chance to answer their questions so next time I will just send a written report,” ABS-CBN quoted him as saying.
Diokno was invited to the Question Hour on Dec. 11 to explain the P75-billion insertions in the 2019 budget. The next day, the House urged President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider Diokno’s appointment.
But the Palace said the President will not allow Congress to disrespect his Cabinet members.
In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo demanded respect from the lawmakers after Diokno was grilled during Question Hour at the House
“He will not allow any member of the Cabinet or any member of the military, policemen, and officials who are invited to a committee hearing to be treated with disrespect,” Panelo said? Friday.
He said it was “elementary” for members of one branch of government to give respect to the officials of another branch.
“As we have repeatedly said: while we respect the independence of each branch, it is elementary that these branches must accord respect to each other,” the Palace official said, reading out the joint statement of Duterte’s Cabinet members expressing dismay over the Congress’ treatment on the Budget chief.
“Every time members of Congress are invited by the President or when they make courtesy calls, they are accorded due respect. And so, we, of course, demand the same respect when they invite members of the Cabinet – and for that matter, any worker in the government,” Panelo added.
“They should exercise the demands of ethical refinements. Meaning to say, we should be exercising courtesy and civility with each other in the manner by which we perform our constitutional duty,” he continued.
Panelo described Andaya’s manner of questioning Diokno “arrogant.”
“We saw the video in the news and we saw how arrogantly he threw questions at Secretary Diokno and how he mocked him,” he said, reminding lawmakers that government officials should not be put in a bad light as they were there to shed light on certain issues of national concern.
“This un-parliamentary behavior has no place in the hallowed grounds of Congress, where members are referred to as ‘honorable’ as they represent their districts or sectors. There is no honor in browbeating a fellow worker and officer in government,” Panelo added.
In his previous speeches, the President has been vocal about respectfully treating military officials and Cabinet members, noting that he did not want them to follow the same fate of former Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, who committed suicide after Senator Antonio Trillanes IV shamed him at a Senate hearing in 2011.
Panelo said the President continues to trust Diokno.
Earlier, Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said Diokno had inserted P2.8 billion in funds for Sorsogon
province to benefit his son-in-law, Casiguran Mayor Edwin Hamor, who faces election next year.
Andaya, on the other hand, said Diokno had illegally inserted P75 billion in the 2018 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways
Diokno has denied all the allegations.
Asked to describe the current relationship between the House and Malacañang, Panelo said they were “cordial.”
The Budget chief on Friday said the President has assured him of his and the Cabinet’s support and urged congressmen to respect the separation of powers in government.
“The Cabinet is backing me up. The President is backing me up,” Diokno said, adding that the lawmakers were supposed to be administration allies.
Senators, meanwhile, continued to defend Diokno, with Senator Juan Edgardo Angara describing him as a man of integrity.
“And I won’t be surprised if that’s how people regard him, especially those who know him well as a UP professor and have worked with him as Budget secretary,” said Angara, who heads the Senate committee on ways and means.
But Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said Diokno must explain the alleged anomalies in the budget.
READ: ‘Parking’ budget scheme bared
He said the secretary’s fate should depend on how well he answers the allegations.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday gave his vote of confidence to Diokno, who said as an alter ego of the President, “deserves to be treated with a modicum of respect, courtesy and civility by a co-equal branch of government.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Rey E. Requejo