Duterte to Cayetano and Velasco: May the best man win

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2020 01:06 PM | Updated as of Oct 12 2020 02:13 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte gives a public statement after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on October 5, 2020. Albert Alcain, Presidential Photo

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte is not siding with either Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano or Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, Malacañang said Monday, as the 2 lawmakers' tussle for the House of Representatives' top post, his spokesman said. 

Supporters of Velasco on Monday noon gathered at an events venue in Quezon City to oust Cayetano, who has a "gentleman's agreement" with the former for a turnover of the chamber's leadership this month.

"Ang siguradong-sigurado pong sinabi ni Presidente in Visayan:     Natagam na ako d’yan sa pulitika, dalang-dala na ako d’yan sa pulitika. Bahala na kayo kung anong gusto n’yong gawin," said his spokesperson Harry Roque. 

(What the President surely said in Visayan is this: I'm done with politics. It's up you, whatever you want to do.) 

"Pero meanwhile ang pakiusap nya, ipasa ang 2021 budget. Wala na po siyang pakialam kung anong gagawin ng mga mambabatas matapos maipasa ang 2021 budget… Wala pong pinapanigan [ang Pangulo]. May the best man for Speakership after the budget in the House, please," Roque told reporters. 

(But meanwhile, his request is for the 2021 budget to be passed. He no longer cares what the lawmakers will do after the 2021 budget is approved. He is not siding with anyone.)

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At least 186 lawmakers have voted to declare the position of House Speaker vacant on Monday. 

Duterte had forged the term-sharing deal for Cayetano to serve until this month, followed by Velasco for the remaining 21 months of the 18th Congress.

Worries over the possible delayed approval of the 2021 budget surfaced after Cayetano last Tuesday moved to pass the spending bill on second reading and abruptly suspend session until Nov. 16, just before Velasco is supposed to take over the House leadership. 

The Cayetano-Velasco feud has threatened to derail the 2021 national budget. 
 
Next year's spending bill includes allotment for the government's response to the health and economic crises brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
If lawmakers fail to pass the 2021 budget by Dec. 31, the government will rely on a reenacted 2020 spending plan, which lacks provisions for all programs to address the COVID-19 crisis. 

Duterte has certified the budget as urgent and called on Congress to hold a special session from Oct. 13 to 16. 

The Philippines has tallied 339,341 coronavirus infections, of which 39,945 are active cases, as of Sunday.