The House of Representatives’ Rules Committee has invited Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to appear as a resource person in the probe it is conducting on his department’s allegedly questionable allocations and practices.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said his committee will conduct another series of hearings on Diokno beginning Jan. 21.
In other developments:
• Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday expressed hope that his colleagues would be firm with what they agreed upon on the proposed 2019 national budget as he expected “bloody and sweaty” bicameral conference committee meetings.
“First hurdle is for the senators to stand side by side and firm on what we have agreed both in plenary and in our informal discussions in the lounge,” Lacson said.
• Malacañang believes there is no need to pressure Congress to pass the proposed 2019 national budget.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the lawmakers themselves knew very well how important the passage of the measure was for the country.
“I am sure they will be passing that. They are all concerned with the services, the infrastructures that will be affected,” Panelo said.
Andaya challenged Diokno “to be man enough” after he snubbed the first two hearings of his panel.
“The third hearing on the issues hounding DBM is set on Monday, Jan. 21. We have sent a formal invitation to Secretary Diokno, and we hope he will reconsider his earlier decision not to appear in the House investigation,” Andaya said.
“As the DBM’s top honcho, Secretary Diokno should be man enough to explain the anomalous allocations and questionable practices that the House panel uncovered in the course of the investigation.”
Andaya said instead of sending his undersecretary and other senior officials for questioning by the congressmen, Diokno should be the one doing the explaining. He said Diokno was the top decision-maker in the department and the buck stopped with him.
“Despite earlier denials, Secretary Diokno finally admitted in media interviews that the DBM does implement projects to the tune of almost P200 billion,” Andaya said.
“Confronted with facts and official documents unearthed by the House panel, he finally confessed that DBM is indeed involved in bidding multi-billion projects earmarked for other departments.
“As we conduct our next hearing on Monday, we will even show that the DBM earned billions from these anomalous transactions. All these money [are] unaccounted for according to [the Commission on Audit],” Andaya said.
Aside from Diokno, Andaya, said his committee also sent an invitation to Bingle Gutierrez, the executive director of DBM-PS who supplied the information and official documents on the P198-billion contracts bid out by the Budget department last year on behalf of other departments and executive offices.
Since P168 billion of those contracts were lodged at the Department of Transportation, the House Rules Committee also invited lawyer Giovanni Lopez, Assistant Secretary for Procurement of Transport department, Andaya said.