Duterte to Cayetano: Pass 2021 budget
President Duterte made it clear at a meeting with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano Wednesday night that he wanted no more delay in the passage of the budget measure, especially as the country is still grappling with the coronavirus disease pandemic.
STAR/File
Duterte to Cayetano: Pass 2021 budget
Christina Mendez, Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - October 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It’s time to focus on the passage of the P4.5- trillion budget for next year, with the leadership issue in the House of Representatives now apparently settled, Malacañang said yesterday.

President Duterte made it clear at a meeting with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano Wednesday night that he wanted no more delay in the passage of the budget measure, especially as the country is still grappling with the coronavirus disease pandemic.

The meeting came after lawmakers voted to maintain the speakership of Cayetano, in violation of a term-sharing “gentlemen’s agreement” with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

The voting came a day after Cayetano agreed to relinquish on Oct. 14 the speakership in favor of Velasco after a meeting with Duterte Tuesday night.

“I will repeat the stance of the President: the move to choose the leader of the House is an internal matter to the House of Representatives and the President respects their decision to reject the resignation of Speaker Alan Cayetano,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“(The President)’s instruction is to see to it the budget is passed as soon as possible because it covers COVID-19 response,” Roque said, adding that the government cannot afford to have a re-enacted budget.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Cayetano said the President’s pronouncement that he respects the independence of Congress should put the leadership issue to rest.

“I welcome the many statements of the President upholding the independence of Congress, and respecting the votes of confidence given by its members to the present leadership and finally putting this controversy to rest,” Cayetano said.

According to Roque, Cayetano arrived with his wife, Taguig Rep. Lani, and his sister, Sen. Pia Cayetano, when Jesus Is Lord founder and now JIL party-list Rep. Eddie Villanueva was also at Malacañang for a scheduled meeting with the President – specifically to lead a “pray over.”

It was not clear if the Cayetanos had a prior arrangement with Villanueva to meet at Malacañang. Roque said the meeting with Villanueva was arranged two weeks ago.

He admitted the leadership controversy may have reflected negatively on the administration. “That is something that should be addressed to members of the House of Representatives. But in fairness to all of them, they seem to have settled the issue of leadership because of the importance of the need to pass the COVID-19 budget,” he said.

“He has left the decision of the leadership to the individual members of the House of Representatives,” Roque said, referring to the position of the President.

“That’s the decision so be it. If there will be a new decision in the future, so be it,” he said when asked if there will be leadership changes in the House on Oct. 14, as announced by Velasco.

He stressed the President “respects the decision of the lawmakers.”

Grateful Cayetano

Meanwhile, Cayetano thanked in his Facebook post the 184 fellow congressmen who voted for his continued leadership in the chamber.

“As far as this Speakership issue is concerned, whatever else happens from this moment on, I am satisfied. I do not crave for anything more, because nothing can surpass the warmth of your approval,” he said.

It was not clear if the President had explicitly asked Cayetano to stay as Speaker, but the latter claimed he got direct instructions to ensure the passage of the budget measure.

“We have made a vow to the President and the country that we will craft a budget that Congress can be proud of – one that will put us on solid footing to full recovery; a budget that will be pork free, without parked funds, and with no corruption. And we will not let them down. We cannot let them down,” he said.

He said it’s time to move forward from the leadership issue.

“If there was some other way, a less divisive and political way, to do this – I would do it. But for now, let us resolve to move past this as quickly as possible, fix what has been broken, and show the country that we are worthy of their continued high regard,” Cayetano said.

ALAN PETER CAYETANO PRESIDENT DUTERTE
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