Presidential son and Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte on Sunday insisted that he did not want to get involved in the ongoing budgetary squabbles at the House of Representatives over allocations for his fellow lawmakers' districts.
In a statement, Duterte said that although numerous lawmakers had called to tell him their concerns over their districts' budget allocations, he told them that it was a matter he "would rather stay away from out of delicadeza" as he is the son of the President.
"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," he said.
"I could only hope that Congress and its members will be able to resolve this issue before everything goes out of hand, before it could bludgeon the credibility of the institutions and inflict damage beyond repair," he added.
Nevertheless, Rep. Duterte confirmed that he had sent House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Yap a message saying he would ask the Mindanao Bloc to move to declare the positions of House Speaker and Deputy Speakers vacant, but this was only out of his dismay upon learning the concerns of his colleagues.
"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," he explained.
"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," he added.
Duterte believes that it is well within the rights of the House members to resolve the issue involving the 2021 budget, and they likewise have the power to "change the course of which the leadership is leading them to."
"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.
Although it was his duty to take part in the goings-on in the House as a lawmaker, Duterte said he cannot simply discount the fact that he is a part of the President's family, and everything that he says or does could be "construed or manipulated" as having his father's blessing.
"And so I would rather suffer or work in silence rather than sacrifice the supposed independence of the House from the Palace," Duterte said.
Last week, Negros Oriental Representative Arnolfo Teves Jr. and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte traded barbs over infrastructure funds allocated in legislative districts.
Teves, during the budget briefing of the Department of Public Works and Highways, questioned the supposedly massive allocations for Taguig City and Camarines Sur, the legislative districts of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Villafuerte, and claimed that they amount to P8 billion and P11.8 billion respectively.
Villafuerte, in response, dismissed Teves' claims as a "sinister ploy" hatched by supporters of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco to derail the House's plan to finish the budget deliberations by the end of the month.
Both Cayetano and Velasco have a standing term-sharing agreement in which the former would hold the speakership for 15 months and the latter would take over to finish the next 21 months.
Cayetano would reach the 15th month of his term this October.
But Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. believed that Cayetano would still win by a "landslide" if the House of Representatives held another election for the speakership. — DVM, GMA News