FORMER president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the object of yet another coup attempt, this time not as president of the Republic but as the leader of the House of Representatives.
This was revealed yesterday by a senior administration congressman as he broke his silence on the on-going feud between the Lower House and the economic managers over alleged irregular insertion of unjustified allocations in the proposed 2019 national budget.
Requesting anonymity, the lawmaker said a group led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had conspired with some lawmakers to oust the Speaker shortly after she assumed the House leadership. In an interview, the congressional source revealed that economic managers led by Dominguez and Diokno “marched into” Arroyo’s office more than a month after she was elected speaker. The group “demanded" that the 2019 proposed budget should neither be slashed nor touched as Diokno stressed that this was supposedly “the President’s budget.”
“When the House leadership didn't heed the Cabinet members' bidding, they instigated some members of the appropriations committee to meet and attempt a coup to replace the Speaker with a ‘friendlier one’ as desired by Secretary Diokno,” the source said.
Some lawmakers allied with the economic managers, according to the source, even gave out the cellphone numbers of 3 Cabinet members to the representatives of the Lower House in order for them to confirm that the ouster move was with the blessings of Malacañang.
But the lawmakers soon found out that there was no such order and the “coup attempt”, quickly fizzled out for lack of support. Despite the attempt to replace her and “audacious behavior” demonstrated by the Cabinet officials, Arroyo kept her silence.
The senior lawmaker stated he therefore found it objectionable that Dominguez had accused the House of Representatives of “unparliamentary behavior” during the Diokno Question Hour over the budget when the economic managers themselves were the ones who had been publicly showing antagonistic behavior towards Speaker Arroyo since she took the House leadership.
“I take strong exception to the statement made by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez accusing the House of Representatives of alleged ‘unparliamentary behavior’ towards Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno during the Question Hour. May I remind Secretary Dominguez that he and his economic team were the first to show a series of sheer and flagrant disrespect towards the House leadership since former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the speakership in July 2018,” the source said.
The economic managers continued with their attack on the Speaker, according to the lawmaker. He said that even before the budget deliberations, Diokno in media interviews, had labeled Speaker Arroyo as the “master of reenacted budget” when the House of Representatives questioned the sudden implementation of the cash-based budget (from the usual obligation-based) for next year’s budget.
Secretary Dominguez, according to the lawmaker, also told some esteemed members of the business community that Speaker Arroyo was independently pushing for the imposition of the mining tax despite the fact that it was part of the priority legislative agenda of President Duterte as he enumerated in his SONA. Dominguez was quoted as texting: “Thats GMA’s prority, not ours” when the mining industry complained about the Tax scheme proposed by the DOF. The source said this was outright dishonesty as the Speaker was never consulted on any tax measure. More so the Speaker had no hand in the crafting of the SONA speech of the President, he pointed out.”
And just recently, said the source, Dominguez, when asked to defend himself over the issue of the Philippines falling into a debt trap with China, unnecessarily took a swipe at the administration of the former President when he said the Duterte administration has “learned much already from the past administration's scandalous mismanagement of projects and financing.
“While he did not mention the name of the Speaker, he cited ZTE, which was the national broadband deal under her administration,” the source said.
Despite the series of vicious attacks, Speaker Arroyo did not say a word against them, the lawmaker stated.
“It is then the height of hubris that Secretary Dominguez and Secretary Diokno would now complain of ‘unparliamentary behavior’ when the Budget Secretary was confronted by hard and irrefutable facts on corruption and questionable contracts with respect to the budget. Are they now saying that they are the only ones who can say a mouthful of accusations and innuendos against the Speaker and members of the Lower House and the House of Representatives cannot fight back to defend itself? Kapag sila ang umaatake, kahit paulit-ulit, ok lang? Pero kung si Speaker ang lumaban at ipagtanggol and sarili nya at ang institusyon ng Mababang Kapulungan, hindi puwede? Such hubris!” he said.
He then reminded the economic managers that Speaker Arroyo and members of Congress are elected government officials with clear representation while they are mere appointive officials who serve at the pleasure of the President.
“Their well-orchestrated and unwarranted attacks against the Speaker is an affront to the people who had voted her to the Lower House.
“It is an affront to the institution she represents. Does the economic team consider the Speaker an enemy of this administration?
Should the Speaker consider them an enemy out to undermine her leadership and relationship with President Duterte?
Or has the Economic Team, whom Diokno always refers to as “OUR GROUP” arrogated upon themselves the SOLE task of determining the Nation’s true interests?” the source said.