By Ben Rosario
SASMUAN, Pampanga – Former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Friday lauded President Rodrigo Duterte for acknowledging the separation of powers in the on-going public squabble between officials of the executive and legislative departments.
Arroyo said that during her most recent meeting with Duterte, the Chief Executive did not say anything to stop the House of Representatives from pursuing an inquiry into the alleged budget irregularities being pinned on Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
While Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo joined the fray by defending Diokno from attacks aired by House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., Duterte appeared to have taken a handoff policy on the issue, as gathered from Arroyo’s recollection of her meeting with Duterte.
“He (President Duterte) respects the separation of powers,” Arroyo told reporters in an impromptu press conference during her visit to a remote community here.
In the same media forum held in Barangay Batang 1, Arroyo belittled the efforts critics of Andaya was trying to mount with a alleged move seeking a House reorganization aimed at removing Andaya as majority leader.
Information being peddled on the issue was traced to the camp of Camarines Sur Rep. Elray Villafuerte, who is the father of incumbent Camarines Sur Governor Miguel Luis Villafuerte. Andaya will be challenging the young Villafuerte for the governorship in the May mid-term elections.
“Well I don’t know how many congressmen shared that sentiment (oust Nonoy). As far as I can see, the majority still supports the incumbent,” Arroyo stated.
The former chief executive said Andaya, who worked for her as budget secretary, will get her vote should there be a move to declare his position vacant and plenary voting is called.
Arroyo pointed out that Andaya has been doing an excellent job in helping the House pursue priority measures of the Duterte administration.
“I am only one vote, I’ll vote for Nonoy,” said Arroyo. “I exercise democracy, I am open-minded.”
“I think Nonoy can take care (of himself), I am not an interventionist person on political matters. I am selectively hands on,” Arroyo added.
Earlier, Andaya vowed to vote for a motion for his relief as majority leader if Villafuerte pursues it.
“I will be the first to vote that I be relieved as Majority Leader,” Andaya said as Villafuerte reportedly warned of her ouster over the alleged delay in the House approval of the proposed 2019 P3.757 trillion national budget.
Last year, congressmen slowed down in approving the budget after House leaders discovered P51 billion in allegedly anomalous “parked pork barrel” allocated in favored congressional districts without the knowledge of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
It turned out that Villafuerte’s congressional district was among those which stood to benefit the most from the allegedly irregularly “inserted” pork barrel funds.
As the House leadership took steps in re-allocating the P51 billion fund, it was later admitted by Diokno that the total amount in additional infrastructure funds for congressional districts reached P75 billion.