By Genalyn Kabiling
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno continues to enjoy the support of President Duterte and the Cabinet amid a congressional inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the proposed 2019 national budget, Malacanang said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, however, left to the discretion of Diokno whether or not he would heed the subpoena issued by the House of Representatives to appear before the budget inquiry.
“We have not removed our support for Secretary Ben Diokno,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
“Definitely, there is no doubt about it. We support him,” he added when asked if the President still supports the budget chief.
Asked if Diokno should attend the House hearing, Panelo said: “That’s his call. Iyon ang naririnig kong sinasabi niya. Wala siyang sinabing hindi siya a-attend, basta ang sinasabi niya, nagpaliwanag naman na ako [That’s why I heard him say. He did not say he won’t attend. He just said he has sufficiently explained],” he added.
The House appropriations committee has reportedly summoned Diokno to answer lawmakers’ inquiries on the 2019 budget proposal after repeatedly snubbing their invitation.
Diokno has been accused of allegedly inserting billions in the 2019 budget to fund infrastructure projects including those purportedly bagged by a construction firm owned by his relatives.
Diokno has denied any irregularity in the budget preparation.