No Restriction Sought on Cabinet Officials at Budget Hearings
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel Jr. (PDP-Laban) said yesterday he welcomes MalacaA[+ or -]angas decision to lift the ban on Cabinet membersa appearance at the budget hearings of the Senate, but stressed that it should not impose any condition or limitation on the deliberations and questions that should be raised by legislators.
Pimentel said that Cabinet members and their subordinate officials have nothing to fear about facing the senators if they have nothing to hide and have not committed any misdeed in the performance of their functions.
He said nobody can prevent the senators from asking questions from the Cabinet members which they feel will help determine whether government agencies are using the taxpayersa money wisely.
"Of course, everything that we ask is related to the budget. They should stop telling us not to ask questions relative to the abuses that have been committed in their turf," the minority leader said.
Pimentel said that the Palaceas gag order has inflicted harm on the government because the inevitable consequence is to derail the passage of the 2006 national budget and to defy the powers of Congress over the purse that is enshrined in the Constitution.
"The President should uphold and recognize the powers of the Senate, and of Congress in general to enact appropriation laws, and apportion the budget for our people," he said.
The minority leader warned that the budgetary allocations of certain departments and agencies whose heads would refuse to attend the Senate budget hearings are in danger of being cut off.
"It would be difficult for the Senate to grant the budget being requested by these departments if the Cabinet members concerned will not show up to give their justification," Pimentel said. He said the ban on the appearance of Cabinet members before budget hearings is a manifestation that the President is no longer interested in seeing the P1.06 trillion budget for the current fiscal year approved.
"And to my mind the whole rationale behind that attitude is not only to create a dysfunction between the work of the Senate and the executive department but also to make sure that the budget for 2006 is not approved on time which therefore means that the budget for 2005 is reenacted which they will now used as a pork barrel. …