Lawmaker exits PDP-Laban to name Rodrigo Duterte as ‘threat’ to House

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — First they called it “some words.” Then it became “bad news.” Finally, they said the specific word used against them was “rotten.”

Ranking House lawmakers on Monday hesitated to spell out the incendiary remarks that last month “challenged the integrity” of the lower chamber and to name its source — former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Upon the prompt of another colleague, Senior Deputy Speaker Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales eventually identified Duterte as the person who described the House as a “rotten” institution on live television — but not without tendering his resignation from Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) on the spot. 

Duterte is the chairperson of PDP-Laban.

“The one who uttered that word is our Chairman from PDP-Laban. Before I answer, I will resign now as member and officer of PDP Laban. It was former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” Gonzales said during the House’s first plenary session after returning from Congress’ five-week break.

This development came after Gonzales sponsored on the plenary floor House Resolution 1414, which calls on the House to "(uphold) the integrity and honor of the House of Representatives and (express) appreciation, solidarity and support" for House Speaker Martin Romualdez.

The resolution itself does not name Duterte nor the accusations he aired over an SMNI program in October where he described Congress as “the most rotten institution” in the country. 

In that SMNI interview, Duterte also alleged Romualdez was engaging in corrupt activities and had sabotaged his daughter's (Vice President Sara Duterte) request for confidential funds in the proposed 2024 budget. 

RELATED: House leaders take offense at Rodrigo Duterte's tirades on Sara’s loss of confidential funds  

To “give context” to the House resolution, Lagman took the floor to ask what events and words were specifically uttered that posed a threat to the House to merit consideration of House Resolution 1414. 

“I remember a threat against one of our own, Rep. France Castro. But with respect to the whole House, was the integrity of the House challenged any time during the break?” 

Rep. Sandro Marcos (Ilocos Norte, 1st District) responded in the affirmative. “I can’t give the  exact date, but I believe it was done on a TV network, and some words were said to malign the reputation of our institution,” he said.

After Lagman requested to put on record the specific words that were used to “malign the integrity of the House,” Marcos passed the baton to Gonzales, who took the floor after a brief break.

Duterte name ‘not sacrosanct’

Gonzales said: “When I heard some bad news regarding the house of the people, that’s why I prepared a House resolution to defend our institution. I heard a lot (from) media, social media, all platforms.”

Lagman then asked Gonzales to name the “overt acts” that were uttered.

“Because the resolution is rather vague. It does not give us the proper background,” the Albay lawmaker said.

Gonzales then said that he “felt bad” when he “heard the word ‘rotten'" but still refused to name Duterte as the person who stated those remarks against the House.

Lagman then quipped “Why is the name of that accuser so sacrosanct that we cannot mention it before this body?”

Gonzales returned after a minute break to announce that he was resigning from PDP-Laban. He then said that it was Duterte who made the remarks that prompted the House resolution to show the lower chamber’s support for Romualdez.

After speaking on the floor, the PDP-Laban stalwart approached Rep. Jose Alvarez (Palawan, 2nd District) — president of PDP-Laban — and embraced him.  

Gonzales first joined PDP-Laban in 2016 and, until today, was its treasurer. Gonzales also publicly expressed support for the presidential campaign of Duterte in 2016.

On October 20, PDP-Laban Secretary General and lawyer Melvin Matibag also broke away from the party, apologizing for the "sudden resignation" without stating his reasons.

'Walang personalan'

Romualdez on Monday delivered a speech that again defended the House’s decision to realign the requested confidential and intelligence funds in the proposed 2024 budget, calling this the lower chamber’s “power of the purse.”

“The House was never lenient, nor did it favor anyone. The entire process was dedicated to uplifting the lives of our fellow citizens and staying true to the fundamental principles of the system of checks and balances in the government,” Romualdez said.

“Wala pong personalan dito. Trabaho lang (Nothing personal here. It’s just our job),” Romualdez added.

It is now up to the Senate to deliberate on its own version of the General Appropriations Bill before a bicameral conference is held with the House to iron out the final version of the proposed budget that will be transmitted to the president.

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