House summons Diokno, to ‘grill’ him about proposed 2019 budget

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Department of Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno may face lawmakers during the Question Hour to explain about the insertion of pork barrel in the proposed 2019 budget. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 9) — Lawmakers have called for the presence of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to answer questions on the proposed 2019 national budget on Tuesday.

In a statement Sunday, the House said Diokno will be “grilled” on the Question Hour, requiring his “appearance and participation” through House Resolution 2307. It mentioned that House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. already sent the proposed questions to Diokno.

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez was quoted, saying Diokno’s presence is important as ”issues regarding budget insertions arise, thereby raising the possibility of having a re-enacted budget for 2019."

Earlier, Diokno maintained there will be no insertions into the proposed ₱3.757 trillion budget.

The Supreme Court in 2013 ruled that pork was unconstitutional.

However, Senator Panfilo Lacson recently asserted that there was pork in the 2019 budget approved by the House on final reading, amounting to P56.7 billion each congressman for his or her respective district. Andaya also said around P60 billion will be allocated for each lawmaker.

Lacson said, of this amount, P2.4 billion is allocated for farm-to-market roads under House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s district alone.

The Palace said Arroyo should be called to explain the budget realignments which appropriated that amount to her. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President has the power to veto the supposed pork allocated to Arroyo in the budget if ruled unconstitutional.

The House said this is the first time Congress will hold a Question Hour under Arroyo’s leadership.

Question Hour is known as the “period of confrontation initiated by the Legislative to hold the Executive department, particularly Cabinet Secretaries, accountable for their acts and the operation of the government.”

The House of Representatives is allowed to summon members of the Cabinet for inquiry on matters pertaining to their departments as per Article VI Section 22 of the Constitution and Rule XVII Section 124 of the House Rules of the 17th Congress.