MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said it was undoubtedly President Rodrigo Duterte who ordered Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to skip the House hearing on lawmakers’ accusations of corruption against the budget chief.
“There is only one who cannot make him go there, it’s the President. So presumably, it’s coming from the President,” said Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo on Tuesday, December 18, during a Palace news briefing.
He was asked to identify who it was who ordered Diokno not to attend the hearing.
Diokno was supposedly told to skip the hearing in order to prevent lawmakers from again treating him in a “rude” manner, as Malacañang said they did last December 11 when they grilled him about alleged insertions in the 2019 budget.
“The basis would be the rude treatment that he has received,” said Panelo.
Last Friday, Malacañang announced that Cabinet members should leave or skip Congress hearings if they feel they are or will be shown “disrespect.”
Diokno, however, has said he would still submit an affidavit to defend himself and explain his side, said Panelo.
The hearing, set to take place on January 3 in Naga City, will look into accusations of Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez that Diokno used his influence to benefit a Bulacan firm called C.T. Leoncio Construction and Trading.
Diokno has denied this. Malacañang, Cabinet members, and lawmakers have also publicly vouched for his integrity.
Panelo parroted Diokno’s line that the accusations from Andaya and Suarez are mere “diversionary” tactics to distract the public from Senator Panfilo Lacson’s accusations against House members who got pork barrel-like funds for their districts.
“According to him, this started because Senator Lacson exposed certain amendments and insertions and because the members of Congress or two of them were in the hot seat. According to him, most likely, they tried to put him on the hot seat instead of them. In a way, it’s diverting the issue from them to him,” said Panelo. – Rappler.com