MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte "respects" lawmakers' move to let House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano keep his post despite a term-sharing deal that the Chief Executive forged, Malacañang said Thursday, as the Congress power struggle threatened to derail deliberations for the 2021 national budget.
Duterte on Wednesday night met with the Speaker, his wife Taguig Rep. Lani Cayetano, sister Sen. Pia Cayetano, Deputy House Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva, and Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
The meeting came the same day that Cayetano offered to resign as Speaker, a move that was quickly rejected by a majority of lawmakers.
"The President has said that he respects whatever the decision of the lawmakers are yesterday. If that was the decision, so be it. If there’s going to be a new decision in the future, that’s up to the House," Roque said in a press briefing.
"Three sentences lang ang sinabi niya, wala akong idinagdag, wala akong binawas: ’Stay out tayo d’yan. No comment tayo d’yan. That’s a purely internal matter of the House of Representatives,’" he added.
(Duterte only said 3 sentences, I did not add or omit anything: We will stay out of there, we have no comment there.)
Duterte last year brokered the term-sharing deal between Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco. Under their "gentleman's agreement," Cayetano is supposed to hand over the reins of the House to Velasco after 15 months or in October. Velasco will then serve for the next 21 months.
But in weeks leading up to the scheduled change of leadership, Cayetano's camp asserted that it was not the time for him to step down due to budget deliberations.
The President on Tuesday urged Cayetano and Velasco to uphold the term sharing deal, said several lawmakers.
Cayetano's meeting with Duterte was incidental. It was supposed to be a pray-over led by Villanueva that he arranged about 2 weeks ago, said Roque.
Velasco said Wednesday that Cayetano’s "political maneuverings and theatrics” cost the House 2 days that were “crucial in meeting our timeline” for the 2021 budget.
Congress will go on a 2-month break on Oct. 17. If lawmakers fail to pass the national spending plan before this, the government will rely on a reenacted budget that does not include allotments for the coronavirus pandemic, said Roque.
"Paulit-ulit na pakiusap ni Presidente, kailangan maipasa ang ating COVID-19 budget on time," said the Palace official.
(The President's consistent request is for our COVID-19 budget to be passed on time.)