Presidential son Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte on Sunday hinted at a possible change in leadership in the House of Representatives amid the ongoing squabble over next year's proposed budget.
Duterte confirmed sending a Viber message to ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap, chairman of the committee on appropriations, where he reportedly threatened to ask the Mindanao bloc to move to declare the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speakers vacant today (Monday).
He said the issue goes all the way up to the House leadership under Speaker Alan Cayetano—who, under a term-sharing agreement, is set to hand over the speakership to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco next month.
“As 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—let me reiterate my position: I do not want to get involved. However, I wish to help my fellow lawmakers find answers to their questions or remedies to the budget that they proposed for their people," Duterte said in a statement.
He said he is ready to lose his post as Deputy Speaker if his colleagues seek to install a new House leadership.
“If the members of Congress will push for a change in House leadership, as a reaction to their sentiments, obviously I would be among the casualties because I am a deputy speaker. I am ready to accept the consequences,” he said.
Despite this, the Davao City lawmaker said he would “stay away” from the issue “out of delicadeza because my father is the President.”
He said his Viber message to Yap 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...As much as I am part of Congress with a duty to be involved in the goings on inside, I cannot discount the fact that I am a Duterte. Anything that comes out of my actions or mouth could be construed or manipulated as having the blessing of my father. And so I would rather suffer or work in silence rather than sacrifice the supposed independence of the House from the Palace.”
“Most of these concerns shrouded doubts over the process and mistrust of the lawmakers ruling the House, those who are acting as if they are bigger than their colleagues. Respectfully, I told them that I did not want to get involved,” he added.
Last week, questions over the allocation of the public works budget for 2021 – specifically over Taguig and Camarines Sur getting the lion's share – have turned into a speakership issue as Cayetano's allies accused his critics of trying to derail the passage of the General Appropriations Act until the earlier agreed upon term sharing deal takes effect.
Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr., in an earlier budget hearing, confronted officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways about rumors that Taguig and Camarines Sur were getting the largest slices of the public works budget for next year.
This prompted Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte to turn his guns on Teves, calling the latter a "rumormonger" for raising concerns based on "hearsay."
Villafuerte then linked Teves's accusation to an alleged plot concerning the speakership.
"It is clear as day that Congressman Teves launched this chicanery on the basis of mere hearsay as part of the sinister ploy hatched by the Velasco camp, in cahoots with former Negros Occidental representative Alfredo Abelardo Benitez, to wreck Speaker Cayetano's commitment to fast-track the approval of the 2021 GAA by hopefully finishing the committee and plenary deliberations on the budget in record time by end-September," Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte insinuated that the Velasco camp wants its principal to be the speaker to hand over the approved 2021 national budget to Malacañang.