MANILA - Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno is free to decide on the subpoena issued to him by the House Appropriations Committee for the Feb. 8 hearing on the alleged P75 billion budget insertion, Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Thursday.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday issued subpoenas to Diokno and other officials to appear before the committee hearing on Friday, a copy of the order signed by Appropriations chair Rolando Andaya Jr shows.
“That's his call. Wala siyang sinabi na 'di siya aattend. (He did not say whether or not he's attending). That's his call,” Panelo said in a press briefing.
Panelo said Diokno still has the trust of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Cabinet officials.
A separate subpoena was issued for Diokno to bring the records of the use of savings for fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Andaya alleged that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has generated P370 billion in "pork [barrel]."
In a statement Wednesday, Diokno belied the accusations by saying that the P370 billion referred to as "pork" were "savings" generated in fiscal year 2017.
Aside from Diokno, the panel also issued subpoenas to some officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Landbank Sorsogon.
Deliberations on the 2019 national budget have been delayed due to the alleged insertions to the DPWH budget. Some of these insertions have been alleged to be pork barrel.
The government is currently operating on a reenacted budget and finance officials have warned it could hurt the country's economic growth targets in 2019.
-- with reports from RG Cruz and Pia Gutierrez