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Palace tells House: Don’t tell Duterte to fire officials


By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang is expecting that the House of Representatives would respect President Duterte’s decision about his appointees, just like how the President does not interfere with the affairs of the legislative branch.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement after the House of Representatives adopted House Resolution No. 2365, urging Duterte to fire Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for various allegations linked to him in the proposed 2019 budget worth P3.575 trillion.

In a statement, Panelo said that the Palace is expecting to accord Duterte the same respect the President is giving them when handling their affairs. “In the same manner that the President doesn’t tell Congress who it will choose as its officers and how to go about it, we wish that its members return the same courtesy,” he said Thursday.

Despite the allegations of favoring and insertions in the budget being hurled against Diokno, Panelo said that the President still trusts his budget secretary.

“While we respect House Resolution No. 2365 which urges the Office of the President to reconsider the appointment of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno as an expression of sentiment from a separate branch of the government, we similarly wish to express that the President continues to trust the budget secretary and the confidence reposed on him remains unimpaired,” he said.

He also described Diokno as one of the best and brightest in Duterte’s Cabinet and that the budget head’s record is unblemished.

“As one of the administration’s economic managers, PRRD considers him as one of the best and brightest in his official family. Sec. Diokno’s reputation as an upright, competent and honest public servant stays solid up to this day,” Panelo added.

The Palace official then reminded the House that it is their job to scrutinize and fix the budget in case they find any irregularity.

“Congress, to which the power of the purse rightfully belongs, has the constitutional duty to scrutinize the budget and even has the power to revise or amend proposals found in it,” Panelo said.

“Should it feel that there was irregularity in the allocation of the budget, it can always correct it apart from having the option of recommending the filing of charges against those they deem are responsible for the transgressions should the same amount to a crime,” he added.

House majority leader Rolando Andaya Jr. disclosed that much of the contracts for the alleged P75-billion “executive pork insertions” have apparently been bid out, with at least 30 infrastructure projects already given to a lone contractor long before the budget could be passed by the Congress.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez also accused Diokno of influencing the approval of P2.8-billion infrastructure projects in Casiguran, Sorsogon in 2018 because his daughter is married to the son of Sorsogon vice governor Ester Hamor and Casiguran mayor Edwin Hamor.

Panelo earlier said that Diokno is a man of integrity and that those who accuse him should present evidence to the contrary. “Mr. Diokno is known to be the ‘Mr. No’. Meaning he is a man of integrity,” Panelo said.

“So when he says he is not involved, I believe him unless you show me, as a lawyer, a competent evidence to the contrary. The Palace believes in the competence and integrity of Secretary Diokno. Unless those who allege can show us competent proof to the contrary, the presumption of competence and integrity on the part of Secretary Diokno prevails,” he continued.

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