MANILA -- Two allies of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Saturday disputed Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco’s allegations that Cayetano was holding the 2021 budget "hostage" to retain the speakership and break their term-sharing agreement.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Deputy Speaker Dan Fernandez said the brief suspension of budget deliberations expedited proceedings, because it allowed lawmakers to limit questions during the plenary deliberations.
Fernandez also criticized Velasco for airing his concerns on social media instead of participating in the plenary, because in this way Velasco would know how the House worked on the budget.
Velasco, in a Facebook video Friday, criticized Cayetano for attempting to discredit him and refusing to honor the term-sharing deal brokered by President Duterte for the House leadership last year.
"In his desperate attempt to hang on to power and tighten his grip on House leadership, Speaker Cayetano shamelessly and unabashedly resorted to attacking me and spreading lies," Velasco said.
Fernandez also appealed to Velasco to respect Cayetano’s offer to resign, saying the term-sharing agreement was never clear on the issue of resignation.
He said the support of most members of the House and the president’s stand to uphold the agreement led Cayetano to offer his resignation.
Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, meanwhile, said Velasco did not know how the budget process works.
“How can we trust him to pass it? He accuses the leadership of getting the lion’s share of the budget, paano naman namin gagawin iyon, eh ang Malacañang ang gumawa ng budget?”
Villafuerte said Velasco was being inconsistent with his principles.
“Is he questioning the priorities of the Palace? And if he is, then why did he promise the President that he will pass the National Expenditure Program as is? He says one thing on Facebook, and another when he is with the President,” he said.
Rep. Sharon Garin, meanwhile, on Friday said Velasco's camp will move to declare the House Speakership vacant if Cayetano does not resign on October 14.
"They will pursue the 15-21 agreement and declare the position vacant and we will see how each and every congressman will decide -- Will they follow what the President suggested or not, and that will determine the fate of Congress in the next few years," Garin said.
Cayetano offered to resign during the House plenary session on Wednesday afternoon, but immediately after his nearly hour-long speech allies moved to reject his offer and the plenary voted viva voce. A later nominal voting saw 184 lawmakers elect to keep him as Speaker.
Despite this, Garin said the term-sharing agreement is still valid because the President has not retracted his endorsement.
-- With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News