Paolo Duterte says to stay out of solons' wrangling over 2021 budget

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2020 04:46 PM | Updated as of Sep 20 2020 05:02 PM

Davao City 1st district representative Paolo Duterte, during President Duterte's State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 22, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's congressman son said Sunday he is staying out of matters concerning lawmakers' budget allocations for 2021 as they expressed discontent.

Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte issued a statement after text messages circulated Friday among lawmakers indicating that he will ask his allies to move for leadership change in the House of Representatives during Monday's session.

"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," the younger Duterte said.

"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.

“Although I am an ex officio member being a Deputy Speaker, I have respectfully and clearly told them that their concern is something that I would rather stay away from — out of delicadeza because my father is the President," Duterte said.

“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. “

But Duterte said he would like to "help my fellow lawmakers find answers to their questions or remedies to the budget that they proposed for their people.”

“I leave this issue to the members of Congress as I believe that it is within their rights as elected officials to come up with a favorable solution to an issue that could badly impact the development of their districts and their people," he said.

In an earlier budget hearing, Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. confronted officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways about rumors he heard that Taguig City and Camarines Sur (CamSur) were getting the largest slice of their budget pie for next year.

The two districts of Taguig are ran by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayatano and his wife Lani, while one of CamSur's districts is represented at the House by LRay Villafuerte, a close ally of Cayetano. Villafurte's son, Migz, is also governor of CamSur.

Villafuerte called Teves a "rumormonger" for raising concerns based on "hearsay" and linked his accusation with an alleged plot concerning the House Speakership.

Villafuerte saw nothing wrong if his and Cayetano's districts get a larger infrastructure budget.

ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, the House budget panel chair, said he also saw nothing anomalous if Taguig would get over P11 billion worth of projects from the DPWH, as alleged.

What began as a question of Teves during the DPWH budget hearing on Thursday afternoon escalated into a word war in a viber group of lawmakers in the evening of that day.

Under a "gentleman's agreement," Cayetano is set to hand the reigns of the lower chamber's top post to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco in October.

Duterte said he was ready for any change in the 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.

"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.”

In 2018, Duterte’s younger sister, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte was widely credited for the ouster of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and his replacement by former President and then Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The leadership change affected the enactment of the 2019 budget which was delayed by 4 months over lawmakers' wrangling.