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In a rare move, party leaders of the House of Representatives pushed back against former President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent tirades against Congress, its leader Speaker Martin Romualdez, and for threatening to kill one member.
Duterte, in his usual vitriolic style, referred to the House of Representatives as “the most rotten institution” on a TV network earlier in October.
The former president, who has refused to publicly disclose his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth, is also calling for an audit of the House of Representatives’ extraordinary and miscellaneous funds.
This call, however, comes amid public outcry over his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, getting a P125-million confidential fund allocation despite not being programmed in the budget, and swiftly using these funds in just under two weeks.
Duterte said in the same program that he told his daughter that ACT Teachers Representative France Castro, a member of the progressive Makabayan Bloc, should be the “first target” of the confidential fund expenses.
“You, France. The first target of [her] intelligence fund[s]… you, France, I want to kill all you communists,” Duterte said.
“We, leaders of all political parties in the House of Representatives, take utmost exception to the remarks made by former President Rodrigo R. Duterte,” House party leaders said in a statement on Saturday evening, October 14.
Signatories include Duterte’s own party Partido Demokratiko Pilipinas-Lakas ng Bayan, as well as Lakas-CMD, Nationalist People’s Coalition, Nacionalista Party, National Unity Party, and the Party-list Coalition Foundation.
Protecting his daughter?
Duterte’s threats were in response to Congress reallocating all confidential funds, a bulk of which was requested by the vice president.
Congress decided to deny all requests for confidential funds for non-intelligence government agencies after it was discovered that Sara Duterte spent P125 million in confidential funds in the last few days of 2022. Opposition lawmakers underscore that the spending could be unconstitutional.
Vice President Duterte’s requests have also sparked a public outcry against government agencies requesting huge amounts that could not be scrutinized.
In response to the former president’s tirades, House party leaders said in its statement: “Our institution, the House of Representatives, has been unwavering in its dedication to the Filipino people. It is deeply unfortunate that the former President chose to malign the very institution that for years supported many of his own legislative priorities.”
Despite Duterte’s threats, House leaders said they stand by their decision to reallocate these funds to other priorities and agencies who actually work to protect national security.
“The decision to reallocate confidential funds to security agencies, especially in the context of escalating tensions with China, was taken in the best interest of national security,” its statement read.
Miscellaneous, confidential, intelligence funds
The House of Representatives also defended its extraordinary and miscellaneous funds against Duterte’s attacks, which he said should be audited.
Miscellaneous funds are audited, and that’s what distinguishes it from confidential and intelligence funds.
“In fact, these funds are subject to the rigorous oversight of the Commission on Audit (COA), the constitutionally mandated body responsible for examining all government expenditures. It is worth noting that, per COA, the House of Representatives passed all levels of audits,” the statement read.
“There were no red flags, no disallowances, and no suspensions – a testament to our commitment to fiscal responsibility and transparency,” it added.
In an episode of Newsbreak Chats, Rappler lead disinformation researcher Gemma Bagauaya Mendoza pointed out the Vice President’s spending P125 million in confidential funds in 2022 had no line item for it. It was also not programmed anywhere in the OVP’s budget, which Sara Duterte merely assumed from former Vice President Leni Robredo.
“It’s not in the text of the Office of the Vice President, the indication that there was confidential expenses. In the portion of the budget of objects of expenditures, it’s also not there. In effect, it’s not just a confidential fund, but also a ‘secret confidential’ fund,” Mendoza said in a mix of Filipino and English.
The Office of the President, House of Representatives, and Senate have discretionary funds indicated in line items in the 2022 budget.
House leaders called on the former president to stop interfering in the House’s affairs through his television platform.
“We call upon the former President and all parties involved to avoid making threats or insinuating harm against any member of the House or the institution itself,” House leaders said in the statement.
In the past, many of the ex-president’s allies in Congress would defend or justify Duterte’s foul-mouthed ways when he would attack his critics or political enemies.
But the winds appear to have changed in Congress when it is the institution that has become the target of these verbal attacks.
“Dialogue and understanding should always be at the forefront, superseding divisive rhetoric. Our foremost duty as public servants is to the Filipino people, and it is incumbent upon us to rise above personal and political divides to prioritize their welfare and the nation’s advancement,” it added.
Did Congress finally realize what sort of politician they enabled? – Rappler.com