MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Malacañang stands firmly behind Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno given that lawmakers have yet to prove his involvement in corruption.
“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,” said Panelo on Wednesday, December 12.
“Mr Diokno is known to be the Mr No, meaning he is a man of integrity so when he says he is not involved, I believe him,” added President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman.
The day before, Diokno had been grilled by Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya on supposed “insertions” into several districts’ allocations under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Diokno admitted there had been funds added to the budget but maintained these were not “insertions” as they were placed there during the budgeting process.
Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, meanwhile, also accused Diokno of having ties to C.T. Leoncio Construction and Trading, a firm which Andaya claimed bagged billions’ worth of infrastructure projects across several provinces nationwide since 2017. Diokno denied the allegation.
Panelo said Malacañang would likely investigate the allegations about this firm.
“We will look into that… Since there is allegation of corruption it follows that we have to investigate,” he said.
When asked for more details of the investigation, Panelo said he would wait for Duterte’s announcement.
Malacañang also maintained that it wants the 2019 budget to be “equitable” and that Duterte “will not allow favored districts.”
Yet he also said there is a need to “probe deeper” into allegations that some districts got unduly higher allocations than others.
There could be instances when much larger budgets are warranted, said Panelo.
“Sometimes, a particular district needs that kind of budget,” he said.
With the controversies hounding the 2019 budget and with the adjourning of Session set to happen this week, there are fears of a reenacted budget.
Panelo said he would ask Duterte if he would call for a special session to prevent this. – Rappler.com