Rodrigo Duterte

‘Tit for tat’: Duterte dangles non-release of budget over senators

Pia Ranada
‘Tit for tat’: Duterte dangles non-release of budget over senators

President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members.

Malacañang

President Duterte dares senators to reduce the 2022 national budget, saying he has the power to withhold funds from them too

On the day the Senate blue ribbon committee held its 12th hearing on the government’s pandemic contracts, President Rodrigo Duterte dared the upper chamber to cut the 2022 national budget, after which he would, in turn, order the non-release of funds from the treasury.

“I challenge you do it… Reduce the budget by one-third. Hinahamon ko kayo. Gawain niyo ‘yan (I challenge you. Do it.),” said Duterte on Tuesday night, October 19, in a televised meeting with pandemic task force officials.

“I-zero budget mo ang Office of the President, sige nga. Gawin mo daw. Bakit? Aabot ba ‘yang pera niyo kung hindi magdaan sa akin? Eh kung hindi ako magrelease? Tit for tat,” added Duterte.

(Reduce the Office of the President budget to zero, go ahead. Why? Will your funds reach you without going through me? What if I don’t release. Tit for tat.)

The dare over the power of the purse comes after the House of Representatives, approved on final reading, their version of the 2022 budget bill. The Senate is yet to do the same.

While the executive branch proposes the yearly national budget, the House and Senate scrutinize the proposal and can make changes to the budget, which then takes the form of a budget bill approved by both chambers. This version then goes to the President for his signature. The President can also veto specific items in the budget bill.

After that, it is the executive branch that disburses or releases the funds to agencies or offices for them to spend on programs for which the funds have been appropriated. In some cases, like for calamity funds, the President’s approval is required for their release.

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Another ‘showdown’

Duterte, in his Tuesday outburst, again mentioned Senator Richard Gordon, chairperson of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

As in previous instances when he was piqued by an official or expert, the President proposed a “showdown” with the senator.

“Let’s have a showdown, sige. Mahusay kayo sa threatening, threatening (You’re good at threatening). Let’s have a confrontation para tapos na yung hangin mo (so that all your hot air goes away),” said Duterte.

As senators push ahead with their probe into how the Duterte government spent pandemic funds, the President has repeatedly insisted there was no corruption in the government contracts. He has defended the actions of procurement officials, the executives behind Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, and his ex-adviser Michael Yang who financed the firm.

Duterte has also barred Cabinet members from attending the Senate blue ribbon committee hearings, a move slammed by senators as unconstitutional.

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– Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.