By Ellson Quismorio
The ongoing “war” between the House of Representatives and the Senate on the much-delayed passage of the pending 2019 national budget only shows that President Rodrigo Duterte can’t control his own administration allies.
Thus, said Makabayan Bloc solons ACT-Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio and Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Zarate in a press conference Wednesday even as they highlighted just how much “pork barrel” or discretionary funds still hold sway in the Congress.
“Reflection ito ng matinding bangayan ng mga magkatunggaling paksyon sa loob ng ruling coalition ni Pangulong Duterte na hindi kayang panghawakan at pamunuan ni Pangulong Duterte,” Tinio said, referring to the budget impasse.
(This is a reflection of the huge row between the warring factions within the ruling coalition of President Rodrigo Duterte, who couldn’t make them toe the line.)
Tinio identified one faction as being under House Speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the other being connected to Malacañang.
He claimed that the latter group’s main concern is to protect the original insertions made to the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget by then-Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Arroyo replaced Alvarez following a headline-grabbing House coup in July 2018.
The Lower Chamber under Arroyo subsequently moved to realign the P75 billion worth of insertions allegedly made by former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno on the proposed budget.
“Obviously yung Senado, at least si Senate President [Tito] Sotto nasa panig ng Malacañang
dito (Obviously the Senate, at least with Senate President Sotto, he’s on the side of the Malacañang faction here),” Tinio said.
It can be recalled that Sotto exercised hard-line refusal to sign the budget over the belief that the changes congressmen made to the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) following its ratification on February 8 was unconstitutional and reeked of pork.
Sotto only signed the budget last week amid “strong reservations.” The GAB is now awaiting Duterte’s signature.
“Pero ang punto, malinaw na indikasyon to na hindi kontrolado, hindi ganap na nirerespeto ng mga paksyon ang Pangulo dahil yun mismong President’s budget ay hindi mapasa at na-delay na dahil nga hindi pa resolved ang tunggaliang ito.”
(But the point is, this clearly indicates that these factions aren’t controlled by, and do not respect the President since the passage of his own budget has been delayed due to this unresolved row.)
For Zarate, Duterte is in what he calls a “porky bind.”
“Kung papanigan ni Duterte ang kanyang mga kaalyado sa Gabinete at Senado, magagalit naman ang mga kongresista at mga kaalyado ni Speaker Arroyo (If Duterte will side with his allies in the Cabinet and Senate, then he will irk the congressmen and allies of Speaker Arroyo).
“Remember in this midterm election, kailangan ng administrasyon ang suporta ng mga kongresista para yung kanilang mga pinapatakbong senador ay mananalo at makontrol nila ang Senado,” Zarate said.
(The administration needs the support of congressmen in order to help its senatorial bets win and in effect control the Senate.)
The militant lawmaker pointed out that President Duterte would also think twice about favoring House members on the budget since, “lalabas na ampao ang kanyang anti-corruption campaign dahil malinaw na pork barrel yan (it will appear that his anti-corruption campaign is meaningless since that is clearly pork barrel).”
“Ang pinag-aawayan lang naman talaga nila ay pork barrel. Kahit anong tawag mo dyan, nag-iba iba lang ang mukha. Kung dati ay lechon, ngayon siguro ay pork chop na lang. Pero baboy na baboy parin,” Zarate stressed.
(The root of their quarrel is simply pork barrel. Whatever they call it, it just changes its face. It was lechon in the past, now it may just be pork chop. But it’s still pork.)