Budget being held hostage â Velasco
But Incoming speaker Lord Allan Velasco said there should be no more delay in the passage of the budget measure. “I call on my colleagues to continue our work and pass the budget on or before Oct. 14. This is the commitment we’ve made before the President, and this is our responsibility to our constituents, to deliver to them a fair and equitable budget,” Velasco pointed out.
pna.gov.ph/Lord Allan Velasco Facebook page
Budget being held hostage – Velasco
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - October 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Incoming speaker Lord Allan Velasco has accused incumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano of holding the 2021 national budget “hostage” to “perpetuate” himself in the House of Representatives leadership.

“Instead of focusing on the work at hand, further political maneuverings and theatrics took the budget deliberations hostage,” the Marinduque congressman posted in his Facebook and Instagram accounts Wednesday night.

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor a staunch ally of Cayetano earlier moved to “suspend” plenary deliberations on the General Appropriations Bill.

“These attacks and distractions serve no purpose other than to perpetuate what is a purely personal agenda threatening to delay the passage of the budget. This is the truth,” the senior administration lawmaker and chairman of the House energy committee, said.

“We can pass it on second reading, as the leadership has promised, before we go on our first recess on Oct. 17 despite the recent events,” Defensor said in defense of his move.

“It was not intended to hold the proposed budget hostage but to quicken deliberations when the funding proposals of these agencies are up for scrutiny in plenary,” he said. A one-day timeout in the budget process could help lawmakers thresh out issues with certain agencies, he added.

But Velasco said there should be no more delay in the passage of the budget measure. “I call on my colleagues to continue our work and pass the budget on or before Oct. 14. This is the commitment we’ve made before the President, and this is our responsibility to our constituents, to deliver to them a fair and equitable budget,” Velasco pointed out.

He added he was grateful to Cayetano for confirming in a privilege speech that he would indeed step down on Oct. 14.

“Thank you for confirming this in your privilege speech and for sharing with the body that this is what we discussed during our meeting with the President – that you will resign on October 14 and that you will announce this yourself as a gentleman,” Velasco said.

Cayetano’s resignation was rejected by 184 of his colleagues.

“Oct. 14 was chosen as the date for the turnover because we committed to pass the budget before Oct. 14 and do nothing else that would disrupt or derail the process,” he explained, referring to the Congress’ break.

Velasco said he would be a “gracious leader who would listen and be responsive to your concerns.”

“But I make an earnest plea: let us uphold the dignity of the House by being men and women who believe in ‘palabra de honor’ in keeping our word and upholding the term-sharing agreement Speaker Cayetano and I swore to honor and respect,” Velasco said.

Rep. Jericho Nograles of party-list Partido ng Bayaning Atleta – a key ally of Velasco – told ABS-CBN News Channel he was disappointed that House members “lost a day and half in budget deliberations in the time of Covid-19.”

“Setting aside all the words and adjectives and personal attacks that came about in the speech – one thing came out certain and Speaker Cayetano confirmed the President’s guidance and order that he must resign on or before Oct. 14,” he stressed.

“That was very clear. The President left it to Cayetano to announce it. Everything else was bluff,” said Nograles who is also from Davao City like Duterte, his maternal uncle.

‘Little absurd’

He said he didn’t participate in Wednesday’s voting, which he deemed a “little absurd.”

“Why absurd? First of all, there is nothing in our rules that calls for an offer of resignation. According to our rules, any officer of the House may resign. It is their personal choice,” he explained.

“And it is not up to the body and not up to the Congress and to the plenary to decide on the action of any officer. A matter of resignation is a personal choice and not of the body,” Nograles maintained.

“Cayetano did not resign. According to our rules, Speaker of the House may resign and upon his resignation from the office creates an immediate vacancy,” he said in the interview.

“When there is an immediate vacancy, our rules dictate that any of the deputy speakers upon voting amongst themselves will serve as acting speaker of the House, until such time that all the members of the House will vote for a new Speaker,” he said.

The battle for the speakership, however, appears far from over, as word war continues between supporters of the two camps.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza and PBA’s Nograles slammed Cayetano’s offer of resignation, which they called “blackmailing” and “hijacking” of Congress.

“What happened was Speaker Cayetano blackmailed Congress and the entire nation... The whole process was a scripted telenovela meant to give Cayetano another reason to stay,” Atienza told “The Chiefs” on One News Wednesday night.

“He (Cayetano) shouldn’t have hijacked the floor deliberations on the budget. That’s unfair,” Nograles said in a separate interview with CNN Philippines.

Atienza, who supported the change in speakership, alleged that the Speaker has again abandoned his promise to the President during their meeting with Velasco in the Palace to honor the term-sharing agreement and resign from his post on Oct. 14.

“We all know that what happened was calculated. Everything was prepared to reject his resignation offer. He should resign on Oct. 14 to fulfill his word and not at this time when the budget deliberations are still ongoing,” Atienza said.

“Why would congressmen agree to his resignation when the budget is still pending? Of course that can’t happen,” he pointed out.

Voting questioned

Atienza also questioned the result of the voting rejecting Cayetano’s resignation offer.

“There were only 111 congressmen present in our Zoom conference, so why were there 184 votes?” he asked.

On the other hand, allies of Cayetano also continued to attack Velasco.

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte said the House plenary’s decision favoring Cayetano was proof that Velasco lacks majority support and therefore not fit to become speaker.

“The Speaker honored the agreement and resigned from his post. But one thing is clear – the majority does not like Lord Allan,” he stressed, also in an interview with “The Chiefs.”

Villafuerte said Cayetano did his part in the deal and resigned, but pointed out that the Speaker also clearly explained to the President during their meeting that the action and will of the House majority would be beyond his control.

“The Speaker said, ‘Mr. President, I will resign anytime. I will honor the agreement even if you ask me to resign as congressman just to prove my loyalty. I am a man of my word. However, I cannot commit the sentiments of members of Congress,’” the Camarines Sur congressman recalled.

Villafuerte said it was Velasco who did not respect the President.

“Three times the President asked him to move the turnover to December to ensure smooth passage of the budget. But he did not agree and kept on insisting palabra de honor. Where did you see a congressman who rejects the President? So obviously his ambition precedes over love of country,” he maintained.

Villafuerte reiterated that a majority does not support Velasco because of his absence in Congress during crucial times and his soft or lack of stance on issues.

He also again explained that there was no Oct. 14 set for the turnover, saying the 15-month term of Cayetano actually ends on Oct. 22.

“There’s an agreement but it’s not cast in stone because things change. The only constant thing in this world is change. We have to adopt to change,” he added. - Edu Punay

LORD ALLAN VELASCO
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