Diokno gets dire warning against ignoring inquiry

February 07, 2019
Benjamin Diokno

BUDGET Secretary Benjamin Diokno has been warned to appear at the hearing today of the House Committee on Appropriations, or  face consequences like contempt.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed a subpoena that orders Diokno to appear before the Congressional inquiry on budget insertions and cash-based budgeting system.

“You are hereby ordered to appear before the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives in its scheduled committee hearing on February 8, 2019 10 am to testify under oath, relative to the subject matter under inquiry by the committee,” the subpoena read.

“Failure to comply, with this order is subject to penalty under the law,” it added.

For the past five hearings on the issue, Diokno kept on snubbing the committee despite repeated invitations to attend.

Committee chairman Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. emphasized that Diokno should explain to Congress several issues like the P75 billion insertions, flood control scam in Sorsogon, the P190 billion items and services secretly being bid out in a small office called Procurement Service-DBM and the P390 billion savings generated by DBM in 2017.

Andaya announced that the head of PS-DBM, Ms. Bingle Gutierrez, had been dismissed or replaced by the DBM after she actually volunteered information regarding the office.

If there is anything that President Rodrigo Duterte should be dismayed about, Andaya said it is not the performance of his supposedly “poster boy for integrity.” He said the President should talk to Diokno.

“I welcome a private meeting with the President anytime. The name of the President has been unduly dragged into each and every conversation we had. Maybe this time around, if they are willing. I can go to a one-on-one meeting (with him), together with the Speaker, to actually explain what is going on and what is causing all of these delays,” Andaya said.

In a separate statement, Andaya slammed Diokno for issuing general statements and “technical gobbledygook” instead of explaining properly how government savings are being spent.

“I have said all along, that government has hundreds of billions of pesos in savings from unexpended appropriations in the past two years,” Andaya said.

“ When he (Diokno) claimed that the P370 billion savings from 2017 reverted to Treasury, does he mean that these unexpended appropriations are still unspent and remain stagnant to this day? Of course not! We do not keep public funds in the treasury for savings or time deposit. We spend them for programs and projects the following year. Appropriations have a minimum shelf life of two years,” Andaya also said.

Andaya reminded Diokno that it is not the government’s job to save money but spend the taxpayer’s money on services that will benefit Filipinos.

“Hindi trabaho ng gobyerno ang mag-impok sa bangko. Ang buwis ng tao, ibinabalik sa pamamagitan ng serbisyo. Ano yan, pinatutubuan ng interest habang madaming nagugutom at walang trabaho? Secretary Diokno, gumising ka naman sa katotohanan. Utang na loob,” he said.

For 2017, the savings was pegged at P370 billion.

The DBM Secretary has the sole power to disburse the savings for government programs and projects.

Congress has allocated these appropriations for specific programs and projects. Secretary Diokno has the obligation to explain to Congress why these appropriations were not used, and where these funds were diverted. 

“The public paid taxes to fund the appropriations for these programs and projects. It is the duty of Secretary Diokno to tell the public how their taxes are being spent,” he said.