FILE PHOTO: Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno
MANILA, Philippines – The Palace slammed the Lower House for treating Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno with ‘disrespect’ during the question hour on Tuesday (December 11).
In a statement on Friday (December 14), Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo called the Lower House’s adoption of House Resolution No. 2365 as ‘unparliamentary’ and something unexpected from people who call themselves honorable.
“This unparliamentary behavior has no place in the hallowed grounds of Congress, where members are referred to as “Honorable” as they represent their districts or sectors. There is no honor in browbeating a fellow worker and officer in government,” he said.
Cabinet members of the Duterte administration have sent letters to President Rodrigo Duterte expressing their support to Budget Secretary Diokno.
They argued that such an action by the members of the Lower House against Diokno appeared like prosecuting the Budget official and thus constitute a disrespect not only of his position but of the democratic process.
“We have witnessed the disrespect and utter lack of courtesy displayed by members of the House of Representatives towards Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno. The Congressional resolution urging the reconsideration of the DBM secretary’s appointment is a sheer violation of the separation of powers on the basis of a seemingly biased and hastily called ‘Question Hour,’” their letter read.
Also, the Duterte officials alleged that the resolution, which was swiftly approved, was “politically motivated and reeks of power play and ill purpose.”
According to Panelo: “It is incumbent upon Congress to accord utmost respect, show sobriety and observe the demands of ethical refinements when inviting officials from the other branches of government in their committee hearings” given that officials, such as Diokno, “are invited as resource persons to shed light on issues of national concern that our lawmakers hope to hear and understand.”
Because of what happened, Panelo said Cabinet members have the ‘option’ not to attend any congressional hearing or immediately leave if they feel that their position is being disrespected.
“We have many options. One, we will decline any invitation if we feel that they will be repeating the same kind of treatment that a member of Cabinet would suffer in the process,” Panelo said.
“Number two, we will go there if invited, but the moment any sign of disrespect is given a member of Cabinet, we will excuse ourselves and beg leave from the committee hearing,” he added.
“The way the questions propounded by member of Congress Andaya, we saw the video in the news and we saw how arrogantly he threw questions at Secretary Diokno and how he mocked him,” the Presidential Spokesperson continued.
Still, Panelo said the Palace leaves it is up the judgment of the members of the Congress, particularly the House Ethics Committee, if they will enforce a disciplinary action against Andaya.
“I suppose having said our stand, they would know that this time that we will not allow any further disrespect to a fellow worker of government,” he said.
After everything has been said and done, the Palace official notes that the administration “will not allow a similar incident from taking place” in the future.
Meanwhile, the Palace expressed disappointment over the non-passage of the 2019 National Budget before the holiday break and put the blame to the Lower House for the matter.
‘The failure is not our part but on them…We are of course disappointed it did not pass as expected,” Panelo said.
Panelo said they are expecting that both Houses of Congress will immediately work on the passing of the national budget once the session resumes on January 14, 2019. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rosalie Coz)