WHY telegraph your punches?
Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte yesterday confirmed that he has threatened to have the Speaker’s post declared vacant today after Negros Oriental Rep. Arnulfo Teves last week questioned the huge infrastructure allocations given to Camarines Sur and Taguig City under the P4.5 trillion proposed national budget for 2021.
“The text message that I sent to another lawmaker — and is now making the rounds — was an expression of my personal dismay upon hearing the concerns of my fellow lawmakers. It was the same message that I sent after one Congressman from the Visayas bloc dragged my name into the issue even after I have already strongly made myself clear over this issue,” Duterte said in a statement.
The President’s son was referring to the text message he sent to his close ally, ACTS-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, chair of the House committee on appropriations, who earlier defended the allocations given to Taguig, the city represented by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his wife Rep. Lani Cayetano.
In that text message last Friday, the deputy speaker told Yap that he did not want to get involved and had kept silent because the Speaker’s camp has not been speaking to him anymore.
Paolo, however, said he would move to declare the positions of the speaker and the deputy speakers vacant during the plenary session “so that Mindanao won’t die for lack of budget.”
The issue stemmed from Teves’ move to question the P8 billion public works allocation given to Taguig and P11.8 billion to Camarines Sur during the budget briefing of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on its proposed P667.3 billion budget for 2021.
Teves act was not taken good-naturedly by some of his colleagues. The issue has gotten out of hand and has even reached the House members’ Viber thread where Teves and deputy speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur exchanged insults, which ended up with Teves calling Villafuerte a “faggot.”
Retorting, Villafuerte claimed Teves was being used by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and former Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez to sabotage the swift passage of the 2021 budget before Velasco takes the helm from Cayetano next month based on their term-sharing agreement.
Threatening Cayetano with a “coup” is not new to the younger Duterte, who also did the same thing before the 18th Congress elected Cayetano as Speaker in July last year. In the end, however, no coup was even attempted on the floor and Duterte ended up accepting the post of deputy speaker along with other administration allies.
Duterte, in his statement, said: “Congress continues to be hounded by the issue of budget — something that finds its way up to the current House leadership, how it treats its members, how it approves allocations and budgets with fairness or lack of it.”
While he claims that he does not want to get involved, the President’s son said he wishes to “help my fellow lawmakers find answers to their questions or remedies to the budget that they proposed for their people.”
“As a collective body, the members of Congress have the power to change the course of which the leadership is leading them to and address a problem to ensure that the programs and projects for their people are delivered and delivered expeditiously. The members of Congress have the power to correct everything that they perceive as wrong happening within the Lower House or change leadership as they demand fair treatment and reforms,” he said.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., president of the National Unity Party (NUP) which is the second biggest political party at the House, said Cayetano would still win by a “landslide” if the President would just leave the issue to lawmakers and allow them to choose their leader.
“Kung sakaling sasabihin ng Pangulo or from his body language, wala siyang direktiba sa aming mga kinatawan na magpalit ng speakership, at kung sasabihin niya magkaroon kayo ng botohan, sa tingin ko (if the President would say that he has no directive for us to change our leadership or from his body language, I think) it will be a landslide win on the part of Alan Peter Cayetano,” he told dzBB.
Barzaga said scrapping the term-sharing agreement will benefit the House so that there will be continuity of the good coordination between the Executive and the Legislative, especially amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
If the term-sharing agreement pushes through and Velasco is elected, he said the new speaker should be able to unite all blocs, including Cayetano supporters.
“Kinakailangan niyang ma-unite lahat ng mga kinatawan para sa ganoon maipagpatuloy naman niya kung anu-ano ang mga batas na dapat naming ibalangkas at maaprubahan sa Kongreso (He should be able to unite all blocs to ensure the speedy passage of our proposed bills),” he said.