Palace: Duterte hands off on House issues but 2021 budget must be passed
In this file photo from July 2017, Duterte gives his State of the Nation Address at the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon City.
File photo
Palace: Duterte hands off on House issues but 2021 budget must be passed
Alexis Romero ( - September 21, 2020 - 6:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte won't meddle in leadership issues at the House of Representatives but the timely passage of next year's budget is "non-negotiable" as it is needed to revive the pandemic-hit economy, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte had brokered the 15-21 speakership deal between House Speaker Alan Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco at a time when the chamber was "not yet organized."

READ: Duterte: Cayetano, Velasco to share House speakership

"At first, maybe they (lawmakers) needed direction from the President because the 18th Congress is not yet organized. Now, after a year and a half, the 18th Congress is already organized," Roque said at a press briefing in Cagayan de Oro.

"The president leaves it to the discretion of the individual members of Congress to decide on the issue of leadership...of the House of Representatives," he added.

Roque said the 1987 Constitution clearly states that only members of the House can decide on who should become their leader.

"We will respect the decision of the House of Representatives and we hope the cooperation between the House and Malacañang will continue," the Palace spokesman said.

'Budget must be passed on time'

Asked whether Duterte would urge House members to set aside squabbles to pass the 2021 budget on time, Roque replied: "Let’s just say, because the 2021 budget is also our biggest stimulus package, it's non-negotiable to the president, the budget has to be passed on time."

Roque declined to comment on reports quoting Duterte as saying that he pities Velasco, saying he was not present during the president's meeting with congressional leaders.

"I was informed about the private meeting but not really about the details. I’d like to be informed or request to the Appointment Office that for future meetings they could invite me because I understand that the people have the right to know what is happening in these meetings but I cannot answer because I was not there," he said. 

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