MANILA — Malacañang on Wednesday said President Rodrigo Duterte is not inclined to meet again with his allies House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, whose row for the House of Representatives' top post has threatened to derail the 2021 national budget.
"Nasabi na niya ang lahat ng... dapat niyang sasabihin sa parehong partido," Duterte spokesman Harry Roque told government-run PTV. "Ang kanyang hiling, ‘wag i-hostage ang budget, kinakailangan natin itong COVID-19 budget na ito."
(He has said all that he needed to say to both parties. His wish is for the budget not to be held hostage. We need this COVID-19 budget.)
Duterte had forged a "gentleman's agreement" for Cayetano to serve as Speaker until this month, followed by Velasco. The President, in a Sept. 29 meeting, pressed the 2 camps to honor the pact, several lawmakers said.
Last week, Cayetano, who said Velasco refused to wait until December for the change of leadership, offered to resign. He cited the 2021 budget in seeking to stay put until the end of the year. Majority of lawmakers, however, rejected his offer to resign.
The Speaker then met with Duterte the same day during what was supposed to be a pray-over, Roque earlier said.
Velasco on Monday also sought a meeting with Duterte, who told the lawmaker that he had "a right" to run as Speaker, said Roque. Velasco is a party-mate of the President and a close ally of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
On Tuesday, the House approved on second reading the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget upon Cayetano's motion. His allies also moved to suspend session until Nov. 16, pre-empting the planned Oct. 14 change in leadership.
Several senators earlier warned that the House power play could delay the budget approval.
“The HOR has just disregarded the request priority of the President to pass the budget,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in a text message.
“There is no way we can finish the budget if it is not submitted to us before the mandated break after Oct 14. Do not blame us!” he said.
However, the Palace is "confident" the Senate would have "enough time" to deliberate on the budget, Roque said in statement.
A reenacted budget does not include allocations for the COVID-19 pandemic that has left millions of Filipinos jobless, dragged the economy into recession, and locally sickened at least 329,000 people.