It was not “dictatorship,” but an exercise of his right.
This was how Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez defended anew on Wednesday the removal of infrastructure funding for opposition members from the 2018 national budget, saying this was also done by previous administrations.
But unlike in the past, he said he did not use the budget to hold his fellow lawmakers “hostage.”
“Kung hindi ka sasama sa akin, hindi ko ire-release ang budget. Ayoko ng ganyan,” he said over ABS-CBN News Channel’s morning show, “Headstart.”
“Kasi gusto ko, demokrasya tayo so transparent ako. Okay, ayaw mong sumama sa akin, sige wala kang budget,” the Speaker said.
Asked by anchor Karen Davila how his approach differed from the practice of past administrations, Alvarez said: “Hindi ko sila hino-hostage. Hindi ko sinasabi sa kanilang sumama ka sa akin di ba? Iba yun.”
When the anchor asked again if asking everyone to agree with the administration was tantamount to “killing democracy” and pushing for a “rubber-stamp” Congress, the Speaker answered no.
“That’s the essence of democracy. Hindi kita pinipilit. Karapatan mo yun. Magsalita ka against the administration, ok go ahead. Pero mayroon din akong karapatan, huwag mo rin akong pigilin. I will also exercise my right. That’s the essence of democracy. That’s not dictatorship,” he stressed.
Citing sources, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported last month that 24 “undesirable” lawmakers were deprived of infrastructure budget for their districts or party-list constituencies for not toeing the administration line.
Alvarez confirmed the report and defended the slashing of the budget, telling his colleagues that “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” /cbb