Two congressmen almost came to blows on the House of Representatives floor on Friday during deliberations on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) budget.
Tempers flared after Majority floor leader Christopher Belmonte cut short the interpellation of Abakada Party Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz of the ARMM’s P16-billion budget.
Dela Cruz approached Belmonte and angrily demanded to know why the Quezon City congressman interrupted his interpellation.
Dela Cruz banged his fist on a table beside Belmonte. The two were about to mix it up but House Majority Leader Rep. Neptali Gonzales II stepped in.
Interviewed after the incident, dela Cruz said he flared up because he had signed up for the interpellation of all the agencies, including ARMM, as soon as the budget plenary debate ended at 1 a.m. on Thursday, only to be told that he cannot ask questions anymore.
“I want to take certain issues on all of the agencies, what’s wrong with that?” dela Cruz said.
He said he wanted to know why ARMM deserves a P16-billion budget when the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process had described the region as a “failed experiment.”
“If it’s a failed experiment, why are we funding a failed experiment? How our colleagues here who are representing provinces in the ARMM look at us now—or look at themselves? You mean to say they’re not doing their job? They’re not doing work for the Bangsamoro or for the unity of this country?” dela Cruz said.
After ARMM-Cotabato City Rep. Bai Sandra Sema sponsored the National Commission on Muslim Filipino budget, House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora moved to suspend the interpellation. Moments after the motion was approved, dela Cruz arrived at the plenary hall.
Gonzales allowed dela Cruz to file a manifestation during the hearing of the Department of National Defense, but did not mention anything about the ARMM budget.
Dela Cruz had been participating in the interpellations but denied that he was doing so to delay the passage of the budget.
“I cannot delay the proceedings. If they want to pass it right now, they can pass it actually, they can always outvote us,” he said.
Dela Cruz belongs to the independent minority or the allies of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.