Press Release
September 28, 2016

On the confirmation of DBM Secretary Benjamin Diokno

Mr. President, I am endorsing the nomination of Dr. Ben Diokno as Budget secretary for reasons as thick as the national budget, but not the least of which is that he is a fellow Batangueño.

Because history books often mention our forebears in tandem, then it is inconceivable for a Recto of Lipa not to support a Diokno of Taal, and I am not, as I have not one reason, to break tradition.

But I am not nominating him because he comes from the best province. I do so because he's good for the country.

This is his third tour of duty in DBM, serving three Presidents, in three challenging epochs of our history.

The first was during the Cory Aquino period, when the order of the day was to redeem the promise of democratic restoration using the resources of a pillaged treasury.

The second was in Erap's time, when the country sailed onto the headwinds of the Asian crisis.

And the third is with President Digong, when the people's expectations of more jobs, less poverty, and real inclusive growth - problems which cannot be Tokhanged into oblivion - have never been so high.

Fortunately, the nominee has got what it takes, and has all the guts, to perform what I think is one of the hardest jobs in the Cabinet.

The DBM is the Kilometer Zero for all government projects. It is the starting line. No project can proceed without being flagged off by the agency.

But that great role also attracts the greatest pressure, so much so that the job of the Budget secretary has been likened to the modern-day version of multiplying bread out of a single loaf, and wine from a solitary jug of water.

And all presidents have expected their DBM men to perform budget miracles, like in a recent case when funds must be found in a jiffy so that the base pay of the uniformed personnel, and soon teachers, will be doubled.

The good thing, however, is that the nominee has the reputation of speaking truth to power.

For that, I think, is the number one role of the guardian of the nation's purse - to remind us of the limits of spending, that resources are not infinite, that we have to live within our means and operate with what we have.

The Budget secretary serves the national interest when he dispenses candor instead of pandering to our whims.

And Dr. Diokno performed that role when he was outside of government, when he was the first to call the nation's attention to the unconventional ways that fund releases were being accelerated.

In the DAP cases, the Supreme Court heard him, and heeded his views.

Which brings me to his other trait - that he is not only an academic, but also an activist.

He had lectured generations of economists in his 42 years of teaching in that public school in Diliman.

And, being the basketball fanatic that he is, he had promised to soldier on teaching until his beloved Maroons win a pennant.

And prior to his latest conscription as DBM's highest paid casual employee, his columns in Malaya, Tribune and BusinessWorld were weekly tutorials on public finance.

And I hope that just by sitting beside him, even by osmosis, the EQ - the economic quotient - of the sitting president would rise to the minimum level required of the CEO of the world's 29th biggest economy.

If any of us here still has doubts that he can do it, then all one has to do is peruse his already abridged resume which is so densely packed with his achievements, that it is written in fonts smaller than those in the national budget.

And speaking of annual general appropriations, let me cite it to cap my speech by pointing out this fact: He has been involved in preparing or executing 12 national budgets - from the time of typewriters to the age of Twitter - and that alone speaks volumes of his competence for the job.

Mr. President: This Recto seconds the nomination of this Diokno.

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