Duterte comes to embattled Diokno’s defense

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MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte took the cudgels for Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno over allegations of “insertions” in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Duterte aired his thoughts on the matter Monday night, days after the House of Representatives launched its investigation into the 2019 budget and allegations of scam in a flood control project.

“‘Anong insertion?’ sabi niya,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said at a news conference, quoting the President. “Talagang dapat kaming magtrabaho, maggawa niyan. Executive nga ang gumagawa ng budget, eh. Kasi parang ang dating ay hindi ka puwedeng maglagay. Eh, talagang ilalagay mo nga sa budget iyon.”

But iyong sinasabing insertion, iyon iyong mga items na galing doon sa mga agencies, inaayos lang para klaro. O, ito, galing ito sa ganitong departamento. Ito ang kailangan ng pondo,” the Palace official said.

Asked if Duterte cleared Diokno of allegations of budget insertions, Panelo was unequivocal in his reply: “Oh, yes.”

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. has alleged that the budget chief raised the proposed appropriations for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) by P75 billion, without the knowledge of President Rodrigo Duterte and Secretary Mark Villar.

He also accused the Department of Budget and Management of favoring a contractor of government infrastructure projects.

Andaya alleged that Diokno had a hand in transactions involving supposedly favored contractor CT Leoncio Construction and Trading in Sorsogon, and repeatedly mentioned other Cabinet officials who were supposedly part of the scheme in the Bicol region.

But during the House Committee on Rules hearing in Naga City last week, Andaya claimed CT Leoncio was merely a front, and that the firm of Diokno’s in-laws, Aremar Construction Corp., was the one that bagging government contracts from winning bidders.

Diokno, however, said the DBM does not have any role in awarding government projects to contractors.

He noted the adjustments made in the DPWH budget for 2019 were not “insertions,” and the Public Works department knew about increase. (GMA News)

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