PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday night slammed senators for threatening to cut the 2022 budgets of agencies.

“You threaten the budget of different agencies of the Executive because the officials refuse to attend your hearings,” he said in a taped Cabinet meeting. “They threaten to paralyze the government.”

Last month, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading its version of the P5.024-trillion national budget for next year.

The Senate has yet to approve the budget bill, which they are examining after state audit reports showing deficiencies in the use of public funds by some agencies.

Mr. Duterte dared senators to slash the budgets of executive departments. “Reduce the budget of the Office of the President to zero, go ahead,” he said, while threatening to block the release of funds to agencies once the national budget is approved.

“Will your funds reach you without going through me? What if I don’t release them? Tit for tat,” he said.

The tough-talking leader has barred Cabinet officials from attending the Senate blue ribbon committee’s hearing probing questionable state pandemic deals.

Mr. Duterte has denied corruption in pandemic-related contracts, including those bagged by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

The President earlier said the country’s pandemic response was being hampered by the Senate investigation. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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