The Palace has denied having a hand in the removal of Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya as House majority leader but the political realities suggest otherwise.
Over the last few weeks, Andaya has been unrelentingly vocal about allegations that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno made P75 billion in questionable insertions in the 2019 national budget.
Using his committee on rules, Andaya launched an investigation into the budget process, and accused Diokno of using his influence to favor a contractor owned by his in-laws. He has also chided Diokno for turning the Department of Budget and Management into a “super bidding body” that has bid out P198 billion in big-ticket infrastructure projects on behalf of other departments.
While Diokno has denied these allegations, Andaya has not been shy about taking his accusations public through press conferences and a regular stream of public statements.
The public accusations not only embarrassed the administration, but also delayed the approval of the 2019 spending plan.
Predictably, a Palace spokesman denied suggestions that the executive branch had a hand in Andaya’s removal, saying it stays away from “political intramurals… in the House of Representatives” and that it respects legislative independence.
But Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo’s next sentences suggested that the Palace clearly had skin in the game.
“Now that Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. formally yielded his post, we call on him to cease from waging a media propaganda war to besmirch the image and reputation of a member of the Cabinet before the court of public opinion,” Panelo said in a statement.
“If he has problems with the current Budget secretary, we hope that he would look for an appropriate venue by just filing a case against him in the court of law.”
The Palace point is well taken, of course. There is a difference between a public disclosure of irregularities and an orchestrated, prolonged campaign to smear a person—and it often seemed that the former majority leader had crossed that line. And if those accusations are real, Andaya has a duty to bring them to court.
But the Palace denial of any role in the affair strains credulity, given the removal last year of the previous Speaker of the House, who had made the miscalculation of crossing the President’s daughter.
Plausible deniability is a term that describes how a clandestine operation is carried out in such a way that knowledge of its existence may be denied by those in authority. Given the circumstances surrounding Andaya’s sudden removal, the latest denial from the Palace surely has wandered into the realm of the implausible.