Alvarez on zero budget threat: ‘It was a joke’

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has dismissed his recent threat to cut the budget of lawmakers who will oppose the proposed shift to a federal form of government as a mere “joke.”

In a television interview on Monday, January 22, Alvarez clarified that he was “not serious” when he previously warned solons that they may receive “zero budget” if they refused to support the federalism initiative of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Alam mo… ‘pag nag-speech ka, kailangan mo ng konting biru-biro, di ba? ‘Yun lang naman ‘yun eh, ewan ko ba kung bakit sineryoso nila yan (Sometimes you need a joke when making a speech, right? That’s all it is about. I don’t know why they took it seriously),” Alvarez told ABS-CBN News Channel’s Headstart.

Last week, the House speaker said he would respect politicians who will not support the push for federalism but added that they, in turn, must also respect his decision to give no funds for projects in their provinces.

He pointed out that it would be “unfair” if both supporters and critics of federalism get funding from Congress.

“Siyempre, ‘yung ibang probinsya ayaw nilang makisama, o ‘di zero sa budget…  Alangan namang pantay? (Of course, provinces that refuse to cooperate, will get zero budget…Should there be equal treatment?),” Alvarez said in a speech on Thursday, January 18.

He continued, “Kung ayaw ‘nyong sumama, okay. Ginagalang ko ‘yun, karapatan ‘nyo ‘yun, pero ang sabi ko nga, igalang ‘nyo rin ang karapatan ko para ma-zero kayo sa budget, ‘di ba? (If you won’t go along with the plan, it’s okay. I respect that. It’s your right, but you should also respect my right to give you zero budget, right?).”

But Alvarez later dismissed his threat as “empty words,” noting that he could not decide alone on the distribution of the government’s budget. He further pointed out that budget proposals needed concurrence of the Senate.

Malacañang, for its part, said the House cannot decide alone on budget matters because Congress consists of two chambers.

“With regard to the budget, the passage of such law needs the concurrence of the House and the Senate,” Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque said. “For us, it is hard to happen because in order to give a zero budget, the Senate and the House [have] to agree.”

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