Diokno skips House hearing for lack of proper notice

MANILA Despite a subpoena ordering him to appear before the House of Representatives' appropriations committee, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Friday skipped the hearing on the alleged irregularities in the 2019 budget, invoking House rules on proper notice as his reason.

In a letter to House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Diokno invoked the right of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) officials and staff to proper notice and a fair and just hearing.

He cited Section 8 (3) of the Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation of the House, which provides that subpoena shall be served to a witness at least three days before a scheduled hearing in order to give the witness every opportunity to prepare for the hearing and to employ counsel, should the witness desire.

Diokno said the Subpoena Ad Testificandum signed by Arroyo and Committee on Appropriations chair Rolando Andaya Jr., was received by the DBM at 11 a.m. Thursday morning, with the hearing scheduled at 10 a.m. the next day, Friday.

Whatever is the real purpose of the House in calling me, I will appear in Congress. However, I take my duty to the people very seriously. It is only right that we prepare in order to give the Filipino people a complete and clear picture of the matter, and avoid giving information that only suits a specific agenda, he said.

We are definitely cooperating but it is imperative that we be given the proper amount of time to prepare, Diokno added.

He also requested that he be furnished a list of questions to be raised during the inquiry.

While Diokno was not able to attend the hearing, the DBM nonetheless submitted copies of the documents being subpoenaed by the House appropriations committee.

However, Diokno's absence was not taken lightly by Andaya, noting that Friday's hearing was already the sixth time that the secretary was asked to appear before the committee.

Please, we will give you one more time and please explain. Kahit kalagitnaan ng kampanya, kita-kita tayo ulit (even in the middle of the campaign period, let us see each other again), Andaya said.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said MalacaAang respects Diokno's decision to skip the 2019 national budget hearing at the House of Representatives.

"Secretary Benjamin Diokno has already manifested his position on the matter and his explanation is well-founded, in fact and in law. We thus respect the Budget Secretary's decision," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo said the Executive respects Congress as a co-equal branch and assured full cooperation, asking the same from legislators.

"Congress should accord the same courtesy to an executive official whom it invites as a resource person by observing its own rules, such as by affording the invitee, as well as his or her staff, proper notice and sufficient time to prepare for a committee hearing on a particular issue. This way, invited officials can adequately provide Congress the information, which the latter desires to be knowledgeable of, thereby rendering the situation beneficial not just to both branches of the Government but more importantly to the people whom we ultimately serve as public servants," he said.

Diokno has sought a rescheduling of the hearing, saying DBM officials have the right to proper notice and a fair and just hearing. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency