By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
MALACAÑANG on Thursday stood by Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno amid calls from lawmakers at the House of Representatives for President Rodrigo R. Duterte to remove him over alleged irregularities in the proposed 2019 national budget.
The Palace stressed that the Budget chief’s record is “unblemished.”
“Secretary Diokno’s record in the government service, to the mind of the Chief Executive and of the rest of his cabinet, 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,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.
Mr. Panelo noted that the Palace “respects” the House Resolution No. 2365, which urges the Office of the President to reconsider the appointment of Mr. Diokno.
“We similarly wish to express that the President continues to trust the Budget Secretary and the confidence reposed on him remains unimpaired,” he said.
The spokesman also pointed out that if Congress “feels 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.”
“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,” Mr. Panelo said further.
Meanwhile, Senator Loren B. Legarda, said in a statement: “As Chair of the Committee on Finance, I have been working with him not only on the annual national budget but also on proposed measures to reform the budget system and in all those times he has proven that he is a no-nonsense man and an honest public servant.”
“I firmly believe in Secretary Diokno’s integrity and in his capability to carry out reforms and introduce programs that would ensure equitable, inclusive, resilient and sustainable growth for our country. He has my full support,” she added.“There is no insertion in the budget. That term is a misnomer. Changes during budget preparation are ‘adjustments’,” Secretary Diokno said.
Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, for his part, said that he and the rest of the “Magnificent 7” minority group abstained from the call to remove Mr. Diokno from his post, yet he believes that the secretary did not act alone in the controversies surrounding the 2019 national budget.
“As far as we are concerned, we are abstaining from the initiative because we will leave it to the President as he has the power to appoint and remove Cabinet members,” said Mr. Lagman in a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 13. — with Vince Angelo C. Ferreras