By DEEDEE SIYTANGCO
ANGEL THOUGHTS “Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” —Elie Wiesel, an American Jewish writer, professor
Let’s observe the 40 days of the Lenten season by doing what Pope Francis advised us. Instead of giving up chocolates, booze and the like, give up gossiping, lying, stealing, backbiting, inflicting harm on others, env. Instead give love, live in peace, help those who need our help, feed some communities that need generous donors. Then we will have a meaningful Lenten season in His Name.
All the accusations and brickbats hurled by some congressmen against Sec. Ben Diokno of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) seem to have had no effect on President Rodrigo Duterte’s regard for the budget chief.
The President has named Diokno as the new governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), to succeed the late Nestor Espenilla Jr. who succumbed to cancer last Feb. 23. He will fill out Espenilla’s term.
Diokno brings to his new post his expertise in public administration and in economic and financial matters through decades of service in various positions in government. Congratulations, Ben! Go slay the dragons!
Before his appointment by President Duterte on June 30, 2016, as Budget secretary, Batangas-born Diokno was already with the DBM as undersecretary from 1986 to 1991 during the term of the late President Cory Aquino. Yes, I remember him in Malacañang then!
He later became the personal choice in June 1998 of former President Joseph Estrada as Budget secretary. He served in that capacity until January 2001 when a coup ousted Estrada from the presidency, which was put on then VP Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s lap.
Well, judging from the positions he has held in various government agencies, and his academic record over 17 years, Diokno appears qualified to be the top authority and chief regulator of the banking industry and he has the approval of President Duterte and the support from Finance chief Sonny Dominguez.
Apart from three tours of duty with the DBM, Diokno served as fiscal adviser to the Senate, chairman and CEO of the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), and chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA). He is also chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, which is Manila’s lone public university for students coming from the disadvantaged sector.
The new BSP governor’s academic credential is impressive. On top of the curriculum is a PhD in economics earned from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University in New York, and an M.A. in political economy from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Add to these his degree in public administration from UP-Diliman in 1968 plus an M.A. in public administration in 1970, followed four years later by another M.A. in economics from the same university.
All was not smooth sailing, however, for this technocrat from the land of the slumbering but still active Taal Volcano. In the last three or four months of his DBM stewardship, Diokno had to ward off charges of alleged anomalies in the agency aired by some members of the House appropriations committee, notably by its chairman, Rep. Rolando Andaya, Jr., and pretty nasty denunciations too.
The charges included supposed bribery of congressmen, collusion with some unnamed high officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), an allegedly irregular “insertion” of a R75 billion additional infrastructure budget of the department, and awarding of projects to a “favored” contractor for flood control projects in Sorsogon.
Diokno had dismissed Andaya’s accusations as “illusory” and not grounded on facts. He challenged the congressman to file criminal charges against him with the Office of the Ombudsman if he has evidence to back up his charges.
To this day, however, there is no news of any criminal case against the DBM chief. Andaya also did not make good his threat to cite Diokno for contempt when the latter refused to appear again before the committee after being subjected to intense grilling and repetitive questions in his initial appearance.
Perhaps the charges have been speculative in nature and may have been intended to generate media mileage for his accuser who is running for another high office in the coming May 13 elections? Wait for the next chapter. Meanwhile, Diokno is Central Bank governor.
In a show of solidarity, the other Cabinet secretaries have expressed support for Diokno as President Digong has.
Amid all the troubles he was going through, Diokno’s answer to the question on why he has been accepting appointments in a government office is that he deems it his duty as a Filipino to answer the call for public service.
Take a bow, Governor! Will he keep the independence of the Central Bank and the Anti-Money Laundering Council which he now heads? We pray so.
Incidentally, Gov. Ben is a very private person, which is why he is often described as “aloof ” and kindly “detached.” He spends his time immersed in books, like a true intellectual, and loves to watch volleyball and basketball games on TV.