House panel asks Diokno to explain absence in budget probe


Posted at Jan 29 2019 03:13 PM | Updated as of Jan 29 2019 10:34 PM

Budget Secretary Benajamin Diokno gives a speech at a forum in Pasay, April 25, 2017. Albert Alcain, Malacanang Photo

MANILA - The House appropriations committee on Tuesday asked Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to explain why he should not be held in contempt for skipping legislative inquiries on alleged irregularities in the appropriation of state funds.

The chairman of the committee, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, earlier accused Diokno of inserting P75 billion in the public works department's proposed budget this year and of favoring his in-laws for projects in the Bicol region. 

Diokno last appeared before Congress during a "Question Hour" on Dec. 10 last year but skipped succeeding hearings, noted Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso, who moved for the issuance of a show cause order for the budget chief to explain his absence.

Lawmakers "should not be satisfied" with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo's statement that President Rodrigo Duterte likely instructed Diokno to skip the probe, said Veloso. 

Diokno has denied wrongdoing and accused congressmen during the question hour of asking questions that were not on a pre-determined list. 

Andaya, who initiated the probe when he was still the chamber's majority leader, said Diokno's "bad experience" in the question hour was not an excuse to skip future hearings. 
Diokno's absence could prevent lawmakers from passing the proposed national budget before Congress goes on break on Feb. 6, he said. 

The deliberations of a bicameral conference committee on the 2019 national budget will be stringent, said Andaya, who leads the House panel. 

"The following days in the bicam will be the hardest and most intense bicam that you will witness," he said. 

The government is currently running on a reenacted budget. 
The proposed P3.75 trillion 2019 national budget is unlikely to be signed until Feb. 7, according to the Senate's "tentative calendar" released earlier by Senate Majority Floor Leader Miguel Zubiri.

-- Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News