Palace congratulates new Speaker Velasco

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2020 01:22 PM

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman on Tuesday congratulated Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco for becoming the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, following a power struggle that had threatened to derail the 2021 national budget. 

Some 186 lawmakers around noon voted to ratify Velasco's Monday election as Speaker and replacement of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano. Cayetano and his allies initially rejected the election, but he later tendered his "irrevocable" reesignation.

"We respect the wish of the House of Representatives on who will their Speaker. If it is true that it has been ratified, then so be it... Good luck to those elected, and congratulations to those elected by their peers," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

"Congratulations to the new Speaker of the House, Congressman Lord Allan Velasco. But as I said, that is a decision of the House of Representatives, which the President respects," 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, which has no allocation for addressing the pandemic crisis. 

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

Earlier Monday, Malacañang confirmed that Duterte summoned Velasco and Cayetano to a meeting around noon Tuesday about the national budget. 

Roque said he did not know if the meeting has been superseded by the ratifications of Velasco's election.

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