MANILA— Embattled House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Thursday that "politics" and "saboteurs" forced him to suspend sessions ahead of schedule, which led some lawmakers' to lament that the crucial 2021 spending plan has been "sacrificed" over a feud with his rival for the chamber's leadership.
In a live Facebook video, Cayetano said deliberations for the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) have been politicized as the battle for the leadership of the House of Representatives continued to escalate.
"If we continue the budget [deliberations] on the floor, pinupulitika na (it's already being politicized)... There are saboteurs, there are people na may sariling intensyon. Hindi na nakakapag-usap nang mabuti (We are no longer able to talk properly)," Cayateno said.
In an unprecedented move on Tuesday, majority of congressmen approved on second reading the P4.5-trillion 2021 national budget upon Cayetano's motion, terminating deliberations as the Speakership battle raged.
Observers said this was Cayetano's move to prevent any attempts to unseat him on October 14, the date set for the supposed Speakership takeover of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, per a term-sharing agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Cayetano instead created a small panel to entertain committee and individual amendments, doing away with the traditional scrutiny associated with budget deliberations. Lawmakers may submit their proposed amendments until November 5.
The lower chamber takes the spotlight annually during budget deliberations as it holds exclusively the "power of the purse." But this role has been "sacrificed to the altar of the on-going House leadership squabble," Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman had noted.
Senators warned the House squabble would delay the passage of the spending plan and may lead to a reenacted budget at the start of the year.
Meanwhile, Cayetano apologized to the Senate after he said that senators would be to blame in case the passage of the 2021 national budget is delayed.
"I called up [Senate President Vicente Sotto III] and asked him to extend to the whole Senate na I apologize na ang dating ay kini-criticize ko o pina-pass ko sa Senate kung may delay. Hindi 'yon ang intensyon (that I apologize if it came across that I am criticizing or passing the blame to the Senate if there is a delay. That is not the intention)," Cayetano said.
Sotto, in a text message to Senate reporters, said "apology accepted."
However, Cayetano continued to insist that the delay in the budget time frame will only be "one day."
"Ang akala po kasi nung iba hindi namin mafo-forward nang maaga sa Senate at hindi sila makakapagsimula sa Nov. 17, one day after the Nov 16 schedule," Cayetano said in the same Facebook live.
(Some believe we won't be able to forward the bill to the Senate and they won't be able to start on Nov. 17, one day after the Nov. 16 schedule.)
Senators have earlier disputed this.
Sotto noted that the House leaders' timeframe did not take into account the number of days needed to print and transmit the bill to the Senate, as well as bicameral conference meetings to reconcile differing provisions in the budget.
"Do not be misled. The House of Representatives has delayed the budget for a whole month," Sotto said in a tweet.