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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Duterte vs Arroyo

/ 05:09 AM January 14, 2019

There’s a virtual chess match going on between two opposing camps in government. This is the feeling one gets when reading the verbal skirmishes between the two warring factions of the ruling administration.

One camp is led by President Duterte, while the opposite camp is headed by former president and current Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The Arroyo knights include House Majority Leader Rolando
Andaya Jr. and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, while their pawns include the members of the House committee on rules who conducted a hearing in Naga City to skewer and fry targeted officials of the Duterte camp.

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On the other hand, the Duterte rooks and bishops include Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, while their pawns include the other Cabinet secretaries and allied senators who have expressed support for the embattled members of the Duterte faction.

The clashes are happening largely among the minions of Mr. Duterte and Arroyo. In the center of battle are Andaya and Diokno, who have been the most clamorous among the officials involved.

The hostilities began when Arroyo, Andaya and their favored allies were accused of huge budget insertions amounting to billions of pesos that they allegedly allotted for their congressional districts. In particular, Arroyo was accused of favoring her district with P2.4 billion in pork barrel funds, while Andaya’s district was lavished with P1.9 billion.

The Arroyo allies were also accused of wanting to have continuing access to the P45-billion Road Users Tax (RUT), which has been the source of rampant anomalies since the Arroyo presidency, according to charges. Diokno has accused Andaya and Suarez of surreptitiously following up on the release of the RUT funds.

There were no convincing denials made by the Arroyo camp on the accusations hurled against them. Instead, the Arroyo allies countered with their own charges of anomalies against the Duterte camp.

In particular, the most raucous of the Arroyo allies, Andaya, has fired a barrage of charges against Diokno, accusing the budget secretary of masterminding the insertion of P75 billion in the 2019 budget for public infrastructure.

Andaya next charged Diokno of maneuvering to have the in-laws of his daughter corner P550 million worth of infrastructure projects in Sorsogon province. The in-laws involved are Sorsogon local politicians who are accused by Andaya of partnering with a favored contractor. Andaya has even upped the ante by asserting that Diokno’s criminal liability has reached plunder proportions.

Mr. Duterte and Arroyo have started to join the fracas. Arroyo has called on the Duterte administration to produce “tangible results” this year to ease poverty. Mr. Duterte countered that his administration has “achieved more” compared to the combined terms of Arroyo and Benigno S. Aquino III.

As regards Andaya’s accusations of illegal insertions in the 2019 national budget which he attributed to Diokno, President Duterte’s spokesperson branded Andaya as lacking “common sense.” But, responding to calls for the firing of Andaya as
majority leader, Arroyo said that Andaya enjoys her full trust.

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It’s remarkable that Arroyo has the audacity to antagonize her benefactor, the Duterte administration, which has been responsible for her transformation from prisoner to the third most powerful leader of the country. One wonders what Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte may be thinking, because she sponsored Arroyo’s rise back to power.

From the vantage view of an impartial spectator, mud thrown by one camp in the direction of the opposite camp is answered with mud thrown back in retaliation. The whole sordid spectacle appears as a war between pots and kettles.

It is during lucid intervals like this that our politicians are being honest about each other. Bring out the beer and “sisig,” and let’s enjoy watching this truth-telling episode among our leaders.

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TAGS: Danilo Suarez, Flea Market of Ideas, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, Rodrigo Duterte, Rolando Abaya Jr.
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