Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday said President Rodrigo Duterte has given no signal for Congress to stop its investigation into alleged irregularities in the budget preparation by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
Arroyo said in a recent meeting with President Duterte, only the important priority measures were discussed to ensure the delivery of his campaign promises to the people.
Arroyo said the President would not intervene in the affairs of the House of Representatives.
“No, no definitely. He respects the separation of powers,” Arroyo told reporters in a press conference in Sasmuan, Pampanga.
Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., meanwhile, said his committee will continue its inquiry into the alleged budget anomalies.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires also denied claims by Andaya that his agency has started a formal investigation into alleged flood control scams in the 2019 budget.
In a statement sent on Thursday night, Martires said an Ombudsman investigator called up the House of Representatives to merely ask for copies of Andaya’s and Senator Panfilo Lacson’s privileged speeches.
“We have not yet conducted any investigation with respect to the subject matter of the privileged speeches of Senator Panfilo Lacson and Representative Andaya. As of the moment, we are only in the process of gathering documents,” Martires said.
Martires also dismissed as “inaccurate” Andaya’s statement about the Ombudsman noticing “red flags of corruption” on the evidence presented during hearings of his panel.
“Truth of the matter is, we have not seen any red flag even from the horizon because we have not been sufficiently educated as to the subject matter of the privilege speeches of Senator Lacson and Representative Andaya, and as we have yet to fully investigate the matter.”
Andaya, meanwhile, said his panel has formally invited Diokno to attend the resumption of its inquiry on Jan. 15, 2019.
At the same time, Andaya said the committee sent subpoenas to senior officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Anti-Money Laundering Council, Bureau of Internal Revenue and Department of Budget and Management as well as Francis Clemente, the one who acted as the liaison officer of C.T. Leoncio Construction, Diokno’s alleged favored contractor, in dealing with government contracts.
“We expect full cooperation and full disclosure from those invited to the hearing as they will be testifying under oath. We also expect to be provided with documentary evidence that could shed light on the anomalous budget practices of the DBM and questionable allocations for DPWH, which we uncovered during the previous hearing,” Andaya said.
“This is the proper forum for our senior government officials to air their side on the issues at hand. We will give them all the time needed to present their case. But we expect specific responses to specific issues. No general denials, and hiding behind technicalities,” Andaya added.
He said the panel will dig deeper into the alleged flood control projects scam where Diokno allegedly allocated huge amount of funds without the knowledge of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar.
Meanwhile, in an interview on radio dzMM, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said the President and Diokno differ over the procurement law, with Duterte seeking amendments and the Budget chief saying these are unnecessary.
Pimentel has filed a bill seeking to amend the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2003 and agrees with Duterte that the law should be reviewed.
Pimentel’s proposal wants bidders selected based on “value for money” and not just the lowest offer, he told dzMM.