Arroyo as next finance or budget chief? Diokno says 'all speculation'

MANILA, Philippines – Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno dismissed rumors that House Speaker Gloria Arroyo is eyeing the finance or budget secretary post after her term expires in 2019.

Diokno was asked on Wednesday, December 19, about Arroyo’s supposed interest in his job.

“Sa job ko? My goodness... Kala ko kay Secretary [Carlos] Dominguez, hindi naman sa akin. Finance, di ba may rumors, sabi nga, di ba, sabi ni Secretary Dominguez, ‘interesting’. But these are all speculation, okay,” Diokno said in a Palace briefing.

Diokno was among the critics of the Arroyo administration. Asked if this has anything to do with the attacks of the House leadership against him, the budget chief said these are “calls for speculation.” Diokno said his criticisms of Arroyo’s term then were nothing personal. (READ: House to probe alleged anomalies under Diokno in January 2019)

He also said he has always been against pork barrel. Senator Panfilo Lacson had alleged that the districts of Arroyo and her allies received multi-billion-peso pork barrel insertions in the House-approved 2019 budget.

Iyong mga writings ko (My writings) are based on theory, based on wisdom, etcetera. Walang personalan doon (Nothing personal there)....In fact, I’ll come with 3 books on my articles. I’ve been very consistent on pork barrel, I don’t like pork barrel. In fact, if you don’t know, I’m one of those who filed a suit in the Supreme Court for this DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program]," Diokno said.

In a separate Palace briefing afterwards, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he does not know about Arroyo joining the Cabinet.

“I don’t know. We will ask the President,” Panelo said.

"Ngayon ko lang narinig ‘yun. Kasi ang naririnig ko kay Speaker, she wants to retire. (I only heard about it now. Because what I'm hearing from the Speaker is she wants to retire.) That’s a new development… She wants to enjoy retirement. Wala siyang nababanggit eh. 'Pag nagkausap naman kami every now and then, wala namang nababanggit,” he said. (She has not mentioned anything. In the times we got to talk, she did not mention anything.)

Arroyo had earlier dismissed the rumor, saying “it’s so hypothetical.” 

Months before the House coup that saw her replace her predecessor Pantaleon Alvarez, rumors were aplenty that she would become the new Speaker. Arroyo also repeatedly said then she was not interested in the post. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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