MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte's meeting with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano after his offer to resign from the chamber's helm was "a coincidence," Malacañang said Thursday as it denied that the lawmaker gatecrashed an appointment to talk to the Chief Executive.
Duterte had brokered a "gentleman's agreement" for Cayetano, his failed 2016 running mate, to serve as Speaker until this month, with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, the President's PDP-Laban party-mate, taking over.
On Wednesday, Cayetano offered to resign in a speech where he also pounced at Velasco, but a majority of lawmakers rejected his move.
Cayetano on the same day met with Duterte during what was supposed to be a pray-over by House Deputy Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva. The Speaker was accompanied by his wife Taguig Rep. Lani Cayetano and his sister Sen. Pia Cayetano, Malacañang earlier said.
"They had a pray-over but because Speaker Cayetano was also present, inevitably they had to discuss what happened in the House," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told CNN Philippines.
"It was a coincidence," he added.
Roque also rejected speculations that Cayetano gatecrashed the event, saying the latter "has always been in that guest list since 2 weeks ago" and was "of the same faith" as Villanueva, founder of the Jesus Is Lord Church.
"It’s very difficult actually to gate cash a meeting unless you’re part of the original guest list... I know how the appointments office works and it does not matter really who you are. If you are not in the guest list, you're not included," said Roque.
Duterte "respects" the rejection of Cayetano's resignation, even after he "has done his responsibility to remind both candidates for the position to honor their words," Roque said.
"The President cannot force, intimidate, the House members into voting one way or another," he said.
Roque said he would ask Duterte about reports that he supposedly said Cayetano had honored his pact with Velasco with his resignation offer.
"That’s a matter of secondhand information,I did not hear it personally from the mouth of the President. The next meeting I have with the President this Monday, I will inquire if he actually said this," said Duterte's spokesperson.
Roque, in a press briefing Thursday noon, said the controversy was over and that the President was urging lawmakers to pass the 2021 national budget that includes funds for the coronavirus pandemic.