MANILA (UPDATE) - House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano violated the chamber's internal rules and the Constitution when he moved to end debates on the 2021 budget, a colleague said Wednesday.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading the P4.5-trillion national budget for next year upon Cayetano's motion. Plenary sessions were also suspended until November 16.
Cayetano was supposed to turn over the speakership role to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco on October 14 in accordance with a term-sharing agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
"It’s not a question of outmaneuvering. Speaker Cayetano violated basic rules of the House even constitutional provisions on how to handle the budget of the nation," Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said.
"Yung kaniyang ginawa kahapon (What he did yesterday), another chapter of the Cayetano telenovela," he told ANC's Headstart.
Atienza said after Cayetano initially promised in his speech that he would veer away from politics and his leadership tussle with Velasco, "he starts lambasting Velasco, starts removing chairmen of different committees, and he immediately went into approving the budget prematurely."
Cayetano cited Section 55 of the House rules to terminate the period of debate on the General Appropriations Bill. This particular portion states that a motion to close the debates on a bill will be allowed if 3 speeches in favor and 2 against, or after a speech in favor or none against, have been delivered.
Atienza said Cayetano himself did not follow this rule.
"Mayroon bang nangyaring debate dun sa kanyang mosyon?...Walang debate. Nagkaroon ba ng pagpapaliwanag 'yung mga in favor of the termination? Wala. Nagkaroon ba ng pagpapaliwanag yung against the termination? We could not have because we were muted," he said.
(Was there a debate on his motion?...There was no debate. Was there an explanation from those in favor of the termination? None. Was there an explanation from those against the termination? We could not have because we were muted.)
Cayetano was "rattled" by Duterte's statement that Velasco has the right to contest the speakership title, said Atienza.
"To me, it’s a sign of panic. No October 14 meeting anymore because I’m going to adjourn it today," he said.
CAYETANO 'MAKING UP OWN RULES'
Along with the termination of the period of debate, Cayetano created a panel to entertain committee and individual amendments to the 2021 budget. Lawmakers may submit their proposed amendments until November 5. In an "ayes and nayes" vote, majority of the lawmakers present in the plenary and via Zoom affirmed this.
"That is not part of our rules. He is making up his own rule in the middle of the game, retreating out of panic, shooting both double-barrel guns of illegal actions," said Atienza.
"A special group to decide for the body? What are we saying here? That Congress can be manipulated by 2 or 3 people? Or a group that is appointed by the Speaker? Hindi puwede 'yan (That's not allowed)," he said.
Amendments to the budget should be debated on during the plenary session, he said. Atienza also noted that Cayetano's motion to suspend the interpellation was supported only by the 25 lawmakers who were present on the floor, as they who joined via teleconference were left on mute.
"You violated the rule, Mr. Speaker and we do not respect and honor that breaking of the rule...Mag-usap-usap kayo ng barkada mo (talk to your friends), plan your own moves, but definitely the greater majority of members who are concerned with the integrity of the Philippine Congress will have to make a move," he said.