October 18, 2023
MANILA – Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) lawmakers denounced former President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday for his death threat against ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and demanded that he apologize to her and the House of Representatives.
The Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) also expressed support for Castro and said that Duterte’s threat should have no place “in a democracy or, indeed, any civilized society.” It added that “if allowed to go unchecked,” his remarks against Castro could even lead to physical violence.
“One of the mandates of parliamentarians is to act as a check and balance for other branches of governments, including by overseeing the state budget,” APHR member and Malaysian lawmaker Syerleena Abdul Rashid said in a statement that was issued on behalf of all the group’s members.
“How can parliamentarians do this effectively if they are threatened with violence for simply questioning the use of state funds?” she asked.
‘I want to kill’
During his “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” TV show on SMNI last week, Duterte went on a rant against Castro while talking to his spiritual adviser and staunch supporter, Apollo Quiboloy.
“But, the first target of your intelligence fund would be you, France. I want to kill all you communists,” Duterte said.
Apart from threatening Castro, he also scored the lower chamber, particularly Speaker Martin Romualdez, whom he dared to be audited. Duterte then described the House of Representatives as the “most rotten institution.”
He made the remarks hours after a House committee decided to remove from the 2024 proposed national budget the P650 million in confidential funds being sought by Duterte’s daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, for her two offices—the Office of the Vice President (OVP) and the Department of Education (DepEd).
Castro has consistently opposed the usage of millions of pesos in confidential funds by the Vice President, particularly the P125 million in secret funds secured by her office in 2022 despite not being part of the OVP’s budget for that year.
Appeal for collegiality
For his part, Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., House human rights committee chair, appealed for “comity and collegiality” amid clashing opinions, particularly over the reallocation of P1.23 billion in confidential funds in the 2024 national budget to government agencies protecting the West Philippine Sea.
“It is always preferable and always more productive to dial up dialogue and dial down divisive rhetoric when we deliberate on issues that concern our people. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable,” he said.
Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo, meanwhile, belied the allegation of former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque that the House politicized the removal of confidential funds from the OVP and DepEd.
“The House’s decision to remove the confidential funds was executed in strict adherence to established protocols and, above all, to serve the best interests of the Filipino people, free from any political ulterior motives, after thorough public hearings,” Salo said.