Duterte wants solons seeking House leadership change to pass budget first, says Roque

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2020 12:45 PM | Updated as of Oct 12 2020 02:14 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte attends a plenary session during the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, June 22, 2019. Jorge Silva, Reuters/File

MANILA (UPDATE) -- President Rodrigo Duterte is appealing to lawmakers who want a change in the leadership at the House of Representatives to "set aside politics, and pass the budget first," his spokesman said Monday. 

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

"Ang pakiusap ni Presidente sa mga mababatas ngayon na nagtitipon-tipon naman po: isantabi ang pulitika, ipasa ang budget," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

(The request of the President to our lawmakers who are gathering now is to set aside politics and pass the budget.)

"Any talk of Speakership will delay the passage of the 2021 budget... Anything they do after the budget is the affair of the House of Representatives," he added. 

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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. 

Next year's spending bill includes allotment for the government's response to the health and economic crises brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two lawmakers' term-sharing deal was brokered by Duterte last year. Cayetano is supposed to serve until this month, followed by Velasco for the remaining 21 months of the 18th Congress.

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.