By Ellson Quismorio
Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. LRay Villafuerte says his provincemate, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., challenged him to a fist fight during a heated all-member caucus Monday, the repercussions of which led to the deferment of the scheduled sponsorship of the proposed 2019 national budget.
Villafuerte further accused Andaya, who represents the province’s 1st District, of bullying him and Appropriations Committee chairman, Davao City 1st district Rep. Karlo Nograles, during the meeting.
“I was making a point on the mic. Sabi niya wag raw ako magsalita (He told me not to speak). Sabi ko (I said) I’m a vice chair, I have the right [to speak]. Sinigawan niya ako, minura niya ako, at nag-hamon siya. On record yan nakita naman ng lahat ng congressman (He shouted at me, he cursed me, and he challenged me. That’s on record, the congressmen saw it),” he said of Andaya during a chance interview outside his office at the House of Representatives.
“He was just bullying me, bullying Karlo Nograles, saying all these things, then marami pa siyang sinamang below the belt (he included a lot of things below the belt),” he added.
Villafuerte said the meeting was called by Nograles, with Monday supposedly being the first day of the House budget debates. Nograles was supposed to sponsor the P3.757-trillion national budget on the floor at 10 a.m., but it didn’t push through.
He further said that Andaya “officiated” the meeting, which he questioned. The latter is a former Appropriations panel chairman.
“Ex-officio member siya eh pero technically hindi siya dapat nago-officiate ng meeting (He is an ex-officio member but technically he shouldn’t officiate the meeting). If he has something to say, yes he can, but taking over the meeting, for me mali po iyon (that’s wrong).”
Asked what ticked off the Majority Leader in the first place, Villafuerte claimed that he didn’t agree with how the Appropriations Committee was handing the proposed budget. “Uminit ulo (He became hotheaded).”
According to him, local politics in their native Camarines Sur is the fuel behind Andaya’s anger.
“He’s running against my son [Camarines Sur Governor Migz Villafuerte]. Siguro alam niyang di siya mananalo (He probably knows he can’t win). But my points is, dapat ‘di natin dalhin ang politics sa Congress. Kapag may local fight, dapat sa local lang (Local politics shouldn’t be brought to Congress. Let’s keep local fights at the local level),” Villafuerte said.
Andaya, in a subsequent press conference, denied having a shouting match with anybody during the morning meeting.
“[There was] no shouting match. Usapang lalaki (It was a discussion among men), let’s put it that way),” he said in a calm manner, later adding that he “didn’t bully anyone.”
It was House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who presided over the meeting, Andaya said. He described it as “unsanctioned” but nonetheless took it as an opportunity to discuss the budget with his colleagues.
The Majority Leader went on to “throw jabs” at his fellow Bicolano, specifically about the allegation that he had been smarting over local politics.
“Parang malayo masyado yung rason (That reason is too far-fetched). We were talking about the budget and it had nothing to do about local politics. We wanted to have a more equitable budget, that was the line that we were trying to deliver,” Andaya said.
“And the line of their group was simply status quo. Na kung ano man yung inequalities na nakikita namin (Whatever inequalities that we see), we just have to turn a blind eye. Huwag naman ganun (We can’t have that),” he said.