House slams Duterte | Philstar.com
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Martin Romualdez resumed sessions at the House of Representatives yesterday with an indirect swipe at former president Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte.
“I will stand and fight against anyone who scares us into following what they want. I will – all of us will stand for the welfare of the country,” Romualdez said in Filipino, as he presided over the resumption of session.
“We will also not allow anyone to stop us from accomplishing our mandate for our countrymen,” Romualdez said in his speech. “Nothing personal, just business.”
Romualdez did not name names, but his ally, Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., later identified Duterte and his daughter the Vice President as the ones deemed by House members to be maligning the chamber.
In his speech, Romualdez also referred to Sara Duterte’s confidential funds that the House has realigned to security agencies.
Romualdez, who heads the chamber whose mandate includes the power of the purse, has been the subject of the former president’s tirades made over a Davao City-based TV station, after the chamber realigned the confidential funds of the Vice President’s two offices.
The P650-million combined confidential and intelligence funds of the Office of the Vice President as well as the Department of Education – which the younger Duterte also heads – have been transferred to agencies handling national security concerns, primarily regarding the West Philippine Sea.
The Speaker likewise told his House colleagues that he is prepared “to stand before anyone and vehemently defend our actions and decisions, even in the face of issues that threaten this institution’s integrity.”
“We have consistently upheld the principles associated with democracy, representation, fairness, pluralism and even dissent,” he said.
Romualdez lamented that despite their hard work to accomplish the targets they have set for themselves, “certain sectors or individuals with misplaced priorities choose to malign and tarnish the positive image of this very institution we labored hard to achieve.”
The House leader recalled that when he was elected Speaker in mid-2022, he had set out “to pursue unity and ensure a fair and equitable distribution of government resources for the development of our regions, regardless of political affiliations.”
“I emphasized then that the politics of division has no place in this chamber. This still holds to this day, only now I reiterate this with a stronger resolve and greater conviction,” he said.
“But let it be said, never must we countenance or allow others not so like-minded individuals who choose to malign or put down the image of this institution and dictate the direction we must go. I urge everyone to rally behind our moral compass – the will of the people,” he said.
In a show of support for Romualdez, Gonzales yesterday bolted from the senior Duterte’s once ruling party, PDP-Laban.
Answering the interpellation of opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, Gonzales categorically identified the elder Duterte as the one who treated Romualdez as a virtual punching bag while defending his daughter.
“Before I answer, I will resign now as member and officer of PDP-Laban, it was former president Rodrigo Roa Duterte who was the one who said that, Mr. Chairman,” the Pampanga congressman remarked as House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe presided over the session.
Lagman, president of the opposition Liberal Party, wanted to put on record who the Speaker was referring to when he delivered an impassioned speech at the resumption of regular session yesterday.
“He (Duterte) has said so many derisive utterances before and he must answer for all of this and I fully support this resolution. And that statement is also an accusation of the leadership of Speaker Romualdez and for that reason I truly support this resolution,” the Bicolano congressman stated.
Dalipe proposed a committee of the whole and introduced House Resolution 1414, which was overwhelmingly adopted by members of the super majority, where lawmakers reaffirmed their support for Romualdez.
Leaders of political parties, which also included House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan (4Ps party-list), have manifested their support in plenary, in sympathy to the Speaker, who has been repeatedly lambasted by the older Duterte over the past weeks.
Among those who declared support were the 73-member Lakas-CMD party, whose president is the Speaker himself, represented by Rep. Jose Aquino II (Agusan del Norte) and Rep. Albert Garcia (Bataan) of the 45 or so members of the National Unity Party;
Reps. Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao del Norte) of the Villar-led Nacionalista Party, Jack Duavit (Rizal) of the Nationalist People’s Coalition of the late tycoon Danding Cojuangco, Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur) of Duterte’s PDP-Laban.
The Nacionalista Party and Nationalist People’s Coalition both have about nearly 40 members each in the chamber.
The 54-member strong Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc., headed by Rep. Zaldy Co (Ako Bicol), was represented by Rep. Migs Nograles of PBA, neophyte ACT-CIS Rep. Erwin Tulfo and veteran Rep. Toby Tiangco of Navotas.
47 bills approved
Meanwhile, 47 out of the total 57 priority measures listed in the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) have so far been approved by the House of Representatives, which are all under the legislative agenda of President Marcos.
This leaves only 10 more priority bills awaiting approval, which may be passed on third and final reading before the year ends, the primary measure of which is the P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024.
A separate batch of 17 bills Marcos declared as equally important in his July 25 State of the Nation Address was also included – 10 of which the House had approved and another six consolidated in the LEDAC list – leaving only one more piece of legislation to be approved.
All in all, the House needs to pass 11 measures before Congress goes on a Christmas break.
The Speaker emphasized the importance of cooperation between the legislative and executive branches through the LEDAC, recognizing that unity and collaboration are essential in developing effective policies and reforms.
“The progress we’ve made is a testament to the cooperation between the legislative and executive branches through the LEDAC. Unity and collaboration are essential in developing effective policies and reforms for the benefit of the nation,” Romualdez said.
The House leader said their focus will be on ratifying the General Appropriations Bill of 2024, along with the 11 more pieces of legislation that remain pending in the chamber.
“We are resolute in our mission to fulfill our legislative duties and responsibilities. Our primary focus continues to be the legislative agenda outlined by President Marcos, and we are fully committed to working diligently to pass these vital bills,” Romualdez said.
The Speaker expressed his categorical commitment to ensuring the timely passage of the remaining priority bills, underlining their vital contribution to resolving significant concerns and improving the welfare of Filipinos.
Also, he expects the immediate ratification of the P5.768-trillion national budget for 2024 and its enactment into law with Marcos’ signature before the year ends, as has been the practice in practically every administration.
“The budget is the lifeblood of our nation’s progress and development. The House is fully dedicated to the task at hand, ensuring that the national budget is ratified and enacted on time to guarantee the continuity of essential services, support economic growth and promote the well-being of our citizens,” Romualdez said.
The House over the weekend submitted to the Senate the approved 2024 General Appropriations Bill with P194.5 billion in realignments for security, inflation protection and food security.