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Fire Diokno? Palace tells Congress: Mind your own business!

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By Prince Golez

Congress has no business dictating on President Rodrigo Duterte who to appoint as officials in the executive branch, Malacanang on Thursday said.

“Should it feel that there was an irregularity in the allocation of the budget, it can always correct it apart from having the option of recommending the filing of charges against those they deem are responsible for the transgressions should the same amount to a crime,” spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters.

Panelo said, “In the same manner that the President doesn’t tell Congress who it will choose as its officers and how to go about it, we wish that its members return the same courtesy.”

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives adopted a resolution, authored by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, urging Duterte to reconsider the appointment of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno following allegations of multi-billion peso insertions in the national budget for next year.

Diokno was accused by lawmakers of inserting P75 billion in the 2019 budget of the Department of Public Works (DPWH) and Highways without DPWH Secretary Mark Villar’s knowledge and consent.

Citing the secretary’s untainted record in government service, Panelo reiterated that Diokno continues to enjoy the trust of Duterte.

“While we respect House Resolution No. 2365 which urges the Office of the President to reconsider the appointment of Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno as an expression of sentiment from a separate branch of the government, we similarly wish to express that the President continues to trust the Budget Secretary and the confidence reposed on him remains unimpaired,” Duterte’s mouthpiece and chief legal counsel said.

“Secretary Diokno’s record in the government service, to the mind of the Chief Executive and of the rest of his cabinet, is unblemished. As one of the Administration’s economic managers, PRRD considers him as one of the best and brightest in his official family. Sec. Diokno’s reputation as an upright, competent and honest public servant stays solid up to this day,” he added.