MANILA – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez says he was just joking when he said in a speech on Thursday during the oath-taking ceremony for local politicians who joined the PDP-Laban that lawmakers who refused to back the administration’s federalism initiative would get “zero budget”.
In a TV interview Monday morning, Alvarez said, “‘Pag nag-speech ka, kailangan mo ng kaunting biru-biro, ‘di ba? Iyon lang naman iyon. Ewan ko ba bakit sineryoso nila (When you make a speech, you have to make a few jokes here and there. That’s all there is to it. I don’t know why they took it seriously).”
A transcript of the interview with broadcast journalist Karen Davila was provided to reporters by Alvarez’s office. He added that he was just thanking the Iloilo representatives for being part of the majority.
Asked to clarify, Alvarez said, “Those are empty words actually.”
Davila replied, “So your threat… of if (they) don’t support federalism, zero budget ka (you will be given zero budget), they’re empty words.”
To which, Alvarez answered: “Empty words ‘yan Karen, kasi hindi ko naman magagawa ‘yan alone e (Those are empty words, Karen, because I can’t do that alone).”
He explained that opposition congressmen may be allocated zero budget during deliberations in the House of Representatives, but that their budget may be restored by the Senate.
“Hindi naman mangyayari iyan kung walang approval nga doon sa ano, sa kabilang… E ‘di sa deliberation ng ano (House), kasi majority kami… Aprubahan namin iyan na wala sila. (Sa Senado) e ‘di ibalik nila (That can’t happen without the approval of the other chamber. So we can approve the zero budget in the House deliberations because we’re a majority. But in the Senate, they can restore the budget),” the Speaker said.
Asked by Davila why he made the “joke” in the first place, as it was something that a bully might say, he replied, “Paano ko naman ibu-bully ‘yung mga tao, ‘di ba? Sus, pambihira naman, ‘di ba? Alam mo, kaya lang naman nagiging ganyan because ini-interpret nila nang iba, ‘di ba? E alam mo, those words really mean nothing. Empty words. So ano iyon? E ‘di joke only, di ba (How will I bully them, right? That’s ridiculous, right? You know, that only happened because they interpreted it wrongly, right? But you know, those words really mean nothing. Empty words. So what do you call them? Joke only, right)?”
Prodded further, Alvarez said, “Hindi nga totoo, kung magsasalita ka diyan, ‘di ba? O parang, sabihin mong, ‘Papatayin kita’. Hindi mo naman, hindi mo naman talagang mini-mean iyon, ‘di ba? Minsan pabiro. ‘Papatayin kita,’ ‘di ba? Pero minsan nagbibiro ka lang e, ‘di ba (You don’t really mean it, when you say it, right? It’s like when you say, ‘I’ll kill you.’ It’s not like you really mean it, right? Sometimes you’re just joking. ‘I’ll kill you,’ right? But sometimes you’re just joking, right)?”
But lawmakers and netizens were not amused.
“Empty words or not, such statements from the Speaker reek of vitriol and are unbecoming of his position. As the saying goes, what goes around comes around,” said Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin.
“Ang kay Juan ay kay Juan; ang kay Pedro, kay Pedro (What is Juan’s is Juan’s; what is Pedro’s is Pedro’s). He knows fully well that the Senate will not interfere if the House leadership wants to zero the pork allocations of its members – as they have already done in the 2018 budget. Speaker Alvarez is just using the Senate as an excuse to walk back on his threat. Arrogance has its limits. It does show that Speaker Alvarez couldn’t care less about maintaining his credibility with the public,” pointed out ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio.
“Mahirap po paniwalaan ang mga ganyang pahayag. Tulad ni Pangulong Duterte na pabago-bago ang mga pahayag, sa dulo, natutupad pa rin naman ang kanilang kagustuhan. Hindi po biro ang posturang parang pinagmamay-arian ang pondo ng bayan mula sa buwis na pahirap. Nagawa nilang aprubahan ang GAA 2018 na kung saan laman pa rin ang pork barrel at nawalan ang oposisyon ng administrasyon (It’s hard to believe statements like that. Just like President Duterte who makes contradicting statements, in the end, they still get what they want. It’s not a joke to act like you own the people’s funds, which come from punishing taxes. They were able to approve the GAA 2018, which still includes pork barrel and where the opposition were given none). Don’t treat public funds as if these are a private ownership,” said Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao.
Twitter user @eckapot24 put it simply: “Not funny,” while @Harperblammo called Alvarez a bully.
@kuikkuzu said, “My brain exploded,” while @ginobengero tweeted, “Ang latang walang laman, maingay (A can that contains nothing is a noisy one).”
“How do you suppose we are to interpret your stupid statements then? Sorry Mr. Speaker, we can’t go down to your level of nincompoopery,” wrote @nad0227.
@jm_geee had similar sentiments, saying, “How can your remarks be subject to interpretation, eh ang klaro ng pagkakasabi mo (when you said it so clearly). Those who will not support Federalism will get zero budget. That’s a threat.”
@wolverinabee added, “‘Yung publiko pa talaga ang may kasalanan, ano (So now it’s the public’s fault for interpreting it that way)?”
“Alvarez can’t just get around this one easily. He is a bully and a thug. Naubusan lang ng hangin ang yabang niya kaya biglang kambyo, kunyari joke lang (He lost fuel for his boasts, so now he’s going back on his words and pretending they were all a joke),” said @fronteros.
“Sorry, Lord. Kakasimba ko lang kahapon pero nagkasala na agad ako sa isip, sa salita, kulang na lang sa gawa, dahil kay Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Patawarin niyo po ako (I just went to Mass yesterday but already I am sinning in thought and in speech. All that’s missing is action, because of Speaker Alvarez. Please forgive me),” tweeted @mrkdaleo.