Palace berates Congress for 'disrespecting,' 'mocking' Diokno

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — The Executive might decline future Congress hearing invitations should lawmakers continue to "disrespect" government officials, the presidential spokesperson said.

In a media briefing Friday, Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo slammed Congress for supposedly disrespecting Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, after the House of Representatives approved a resolution seeking Diokno's ouster.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday adopted a resolution-- penned by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez - urging President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider Diokno's appointment.

Malacañang threatened to skip lawmakers' next invitations - to make sure the incident won't happen again.

"We will decline any invitation if we feel that that they will be repeating the same kind of treatment," Panelo said Friday. "We will go there - if invited-- but the moment there is any sign of disrespect is given a member of the cabinet, we will excuse ourselves and beg leave," he retracted.

The Cabinet on Friday issued a statement on the said House resolution targeting Diokno. It noted that members of the Congress should "accord utmost respect, show sobriety, and show demands of ethical refinements" when inviting government officials as resource speakers.

The Palace backed the statement, saying that all government workers-- regardless of branch-- should be treated with equal respect.

"Every time members of Congress are invited by the President, they are accorded due respect. We of course demand the same respect when they invite members of the Cabinet and any workers of the government," the spokesman added.

READ: Duterte still trusts Diokno amid budget 'insertions,' replacement calls — Palace

Panelo also criticized how House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. "mocked" Diokno during a House budget hearing on Tuesday.

 

Budget insertions?

The Budget Secretary this week has been on the receiving end of some 'insertion' allegations by some lawmakers.

Rep. Suarez accused Diokno of inserting P2.8 billion worth of funds for Sorsogon province to aid his son-in-law Casiguran, Sorsogon Mayor Edwin Hamor. Diokno denied the allegation.

Andaya, on the other hand, figured in a heated exchange with Diokno during the question hour at the House. The Majority Leader questioned the Budget Chief's supposed multi-billion peso allocations for infrastructure projects in the 2018 budget.

But opposition solon Edcel Lagman on Thursday said Diokno could not have done the insertions by himself-- without the consent of Duterte and other officials.

"I don't think Secretary Diokno will do this on his own. I think he has the permission, the consent and prior knowledge of the executive, particularly of the President," the Albay Representative said.

However, Andaya refuses to take back his earlier allegation. In a statement Friday, he cited the President's claim that the latter was not involved in the budget "insertions."

In a speech Thursday, Duterte said documents involving money do not reach his table or office.

"I tell you now again and again, there is no document or  documents involving money, public or private projects, and everything," the country's chief executive was quoted saying.

"The President's statements speak volumes. Those who hide behind the mantle of the presidency, invoke his name for actions he knew nothing of, withhold information from him, should take the cue," Andaya said.

Meanwhile, Panelo also expressed dismay regarding the delay of the 2019 budget passage.

"Certainly, we are of course disappointed that it did not pass as expected. I hope so (it will not happen again) because a lot of services will be affected," he said in the briefing.