President Duterte has dared the Senate to make good of its supposed threats to slash the allocations of certain agencies amid the ongoing 2022 national budget hearings of the legislative chamber.
Duterte, presiding in his first “Talk to the People” public briefing in over a week, called out the senators at past midnight Wednesday, Oct. 20 for giving the agencies a hard time in the hearings due to the absence of key officials.
“You threaten the budgets of different agencies of the executive because the officials refuse to attend your hearings…They threaten to paralyze government. I challenge you: Do it…reduce the budget by one-third. Hinahamon ko kayo, gawain ninyo yan (I challenge you. Do what you are saying),” he said, without mentioning any senator in particular.
“Mautak man kaya kayo. Eh ako, ordinaryo lang, 75. Pero kaya ng utak niyo, sige (You people are smart. As for me, I’m ordinary, my grade was 75. But if your brains can handle it, go ahead), I challenge you,” the obviously irate Chief Executive said.
“Reduce it by one-third, I challenge you. Wag kang magtakot, gawin mo (Don’t make threats, just do it),” he said.
Duterte, a lawyer, even suggested that the senators give the Office of the President even worse treatment as far as the budget deliberations are concerned.
“I-zero budget mo ang Office of the President. Sige nga. Bakit aabot ba yang pera ninyo kung hindi magdaan sa akin? Eh kung hindi ako mag-release? (Give the Office of the President zero budget. Come on. Do you think your money will reach you without going through me first? What if I don’t release?)” he said, as if turning the tables on the solons.
“Tit-for-tat. Kala niyo kayo lang marunong (You think you’re the only ones in the know),” scoffed Duterte.
“Walang takutan, i-direcho mo na (No threats, just do it). Let’s have a showdown,” he further said.
There is no love lost between the President and the Senate. A few weeks ago, Duterte signed a memorandum barring workers from the executive department from attending the inquiry of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which has been looking into the alleged anomalies in the government’s procurement of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) supplies in 2020.
It should be noted that anything goes in budget hearings, meaning a senator may ask about anything he or she wants to agency officials who are trying to get their proposed budget approved. So, questions regarding the alleged procurement irregularities are fair game.
Duterte had described the Blue Ribbon panel hearings last month as being “worse than martial law“.