MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives adopted a resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to fire Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, whom lawmakers accused of making insertions in the 2018 and 2019 budgets.
On Wednesday, December 12, lawmakers adopted House Resolution (HR) 2365 authored by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.
"Therefore, be it resolved as it is hereby resolved, that the House of Representatives urge His Excellency Rodrigo Roa Duterte, to reconsider the appointment of Hon. Benjamin Diokno as Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)," reads the resolution.
HR 2365, however, does not have the full force and effect of the law. This means lawmakers can neither compel Duterte to follow their suggestion nor can they force Diokno to resign.
It was the House's last move before session was adjourned on Wednesday for the holidays. Session will resume in January next year.
JUST IN: House adopts reso urging Duterte to reconsider the appointment of DBM Sec Diokno @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/KJQ5MtiwWy — Mara Cepeda (@maracepeda) December 12, 2018
Legislators adopted the resolution a day after Diokno was subjected to a question hour at the House, where the embattled DBM chief was put on the hot seat for alleged "insertions" which he authorized for this year's national budget as well as the proposed P3.757-trillion budget for 2019.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr grilled Diokno during the question hour for admitting that the DBM had added P75 billion to the proposed budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways in 2019.
Diokno said, however, that the move is aboveboard because it was part of the legal budgeting process. But Andaya said neither Public Works Secretary Mark Villar nor Duterte himself are aware about this P75 billion.
"Such insertion, if proven, is illegal and ultra vires (beyond one's legal power) for it bypassed the authority of the President, through its line agencies, to submit its proposed budget for 2019," states HR 2365.
The ranking House leaders believe Diokno did this as a favor to his daughter, who is married to the son of Sorsogon Vice Governor Ester Hamor.
But Diokno denied this, saying that he knows "no relatives, no friends as far as public affairs are concerned."
Andaya also revealed that CT Leoncio Construction and Trading has allegedly bagged billions worth of projects in Metro Manila, Davao City, and 8 other provinces since 2017. The House majority leader said the controversial single proprietorship in Bulacan has ties with members of Duterte's Cabinet, but he did not name the officials allegedly involved.
"Secretary Diokno also was not able to explain how one sole proprietorship construction company was able to obtain numerous projects from the government in Sorsogon, amounting to billions of pesos," states HR 2365.
"There are doubts as to the Secretary's integrity and use of his position in accommodating and merging family with public interest."
Malacañang, however, still maintains that Diokno is a "man of integrity" because the congressmen's accusations have yet to be proven.
Distraction from pork?
The House's standoff with Diokno comes on the heels of Senator Panfilo Lacson's accusations that the House-approved 2019 budget is filled with unconstitutional pork barrel funds for lawmakers.
Lacson said P2.4 billion was allocated for Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's district, while Andaya received P1.9 billion. He also said Arroyo's allies got high allocations, too. (READ: Arroyo: Others got bigger allocations in 2019 budget)