Duterte summons Speakership rivals Cayetano, Velasco to Palace

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2020 11:01 AM | Updated as of Oct 13 2020 07:14 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his remarks following a meeting with the officials of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, discussing the impasse in Congress as he called on its members to resolve the issues on the passing of the national budget for 2021 at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on October 8, 2020.

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday summoned to a meeting his congressmen allies, Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco, whose battle for the House Speakership has threatened to derail the approval of the country's pandemic war chest. 

The meeting "regarding the passage of the 2021 budget" is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement. 

After Roque's announcement, some 186 lawmakers around noon voted to ratify Velasco's Monday election as Speaker, effectively replacing Cayetano. Cayetano and his allies initially rejected the election, but he later tendered his "irrevocable" resignation.
 
Roque said he did not know if the meeting has been superseded by the latest development

"But I suppose if the President called for the meeting, it will probably push through still," he told reporters. 

Duterte last year forged the two lawmakers' "gentleman's agreement" in which Cayetano was supposed to serve until this month, followed by Velasco for the remaining 21 months of the 18th Congress.

However, Cayetano last week 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. 

This spawned concern that the 2021 national budget, which included funds for the coronavirus pandemic, might be delayed. If lawmakers fail to pass the 2021 budget by Dec. 31, the government will rely on a reenacted 2020 spending plan. 

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

Cayetano claimed a recent agreement forged in Malacanang with Duterte would have Velasco assume the Speakership in December after the budget bill is passed. But Velasco said they agreed in that Sept. 29 meeting that Cayetano will step down on Oct. 14.

Duterte is appealing to lawmakers to pass the budget first before tussling for the Speakership, Roque said Monday.