MANILA - House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has outmaneuvered Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco by leading the House into a quick approval of House BBill 7727 or the 2021 budget on 2nd reading Tuesday, 2 days ahead of schedule.
University of the Philippines Political Science Assistant Professor Jean Franco said Cayetano has better strategists than Velasco, which combined with the resources of the Speaker’s office, makes Cayetano formidable.
“They are on the side of Cayetano, of course. Velasco has been had so to speak. Again APC has all the resources on his side and the power over the rules and proceedings in the HoR.”
Cayetano has also refuted Velasco’s claims that he is holding the budget hostage to prolong his hold on the Speakership by moving to approve the budget even if there were still 2 days and several agencies left to deliberate. Under the House rules, once all debates have been finished, the plenary proceeds to the period of committee and individual amendments first before approving any bill on 2nd reading.
“Sabi po ni Cong. Velasco, hostage ko raw yung budget. Kung hostage ko po ang budget, I will now move to defer the budget and to take it up to November. If hino-hostage ko yung budget. But I will prove to Congressman Velasco and his cohorts today that I’m not hostaging the budget. Applying Section 55 of our Rules, I move to terminate the period of debate of House Bill No. 7727 otherwise known as the GAB," he said in a privilege speech.
The plenary approved the bill in an ayes and nayes vote.
Cayetano also led the creation of a small committee to process amendments to the budget before it is voted on third and final reading in November.
All congressmen will have until November 5 to propose amendments to the small committee.
Under their original timetable, HB 7727 was set to be approved on Friday, with approval on third reading set for October 14—incidentally the day Velasco expects Cayetano to resign his position under a term sharing agreement.
But Cayetano’s motion and subsequent suspension of the session until mid-November prevents that. It also ensures Cayetano will still be speaker by his birthday on the 28th, which he invoked to President Rodrigo Duterte last week when they met with Velasco in Malacañang. Congress won’t be back in session until November 16, way past Velasco’s birthday on November 9.
'He's going to drag down Congress'
However, opposition lawmakers and the camp of Velasco hit the hasty approval of the 2021 budget on second reading, with 2 lawmakers saying he prevented a possible attempt to unseat him at the expense of the General Appropriations Bill and the public.
Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza said: "Tama yung aming usap-usapan ng mga congressmen, he's going to drag down Congress, he doesn't care. Look what he did look what he did."
"Ang implication sa budget niyan, it will all be done in closed doors in private at mag-uusap usap na lang ang mga interesado sa pera. Yung Speakership, he has already closed all doors including the windows and cracks in the walls. He closed everything to arrogate the Speakership for himself knowing very well that a great number of congressmen are now realizing this man has no word of honor and he has to be removed as he will not step down," he added.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, for his part, said, "The suspension of the sessions of the House of Representatives starting in the afternoon of Tuesday, October 6, 2020, up to November 15, 2020 or a period of 40 days, without the prior consent of the Senate violates Section 16 (5) of Article VI of the Constitution which unequivocally provides 'Neither House during the sessions of the Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.'”
Lagman also said it also violates Concurrent Resolution No. 11 authorizing the suspension of sessions only from October 17, 2020 to November 15, 2020.
He said that the proposed budgets of 14 major departments, including their attached agencies, have not been deliberated and/or completed.
"The provisions on cloture and closure of debates have been indiscriminately invoked even as the proposed budgets of numerous departments, offices and agencies have not been taken up," Lagman said.
In a statement, Velasco said: "As leader of the ruling PDP-Laban, which represents the biggest bloc of the Super Majority Coalition in Congress, we highly denounce the unilateral acts of Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano and his handful of allies in the House of Representatives that led to the hurried approval of the 2021 national budget without the going through the budget process stipulated in the Constitution and the suspension of the plenary session until November 16, 2020.”
But for Franco, Cayetano’s advantages go back to him being first in the term-sharing agreement.
“In all aspects, Cayetano has an advantage. He was Speaker first, and so he has the advantage of providing spoils to HOR members. Even in his privilege speech earlier, he demonstrated his control of the chamber, its time, and its attention. His narrative also came out as someone who was the 'good boy' deprived of his 'candy' rather than someone who refuses to honor what was supposedly a 'gentleman's' agreement. Velasco was portrayed as someone not 'obeying' Duterte's directive, and so a 'bad' boy in Cayetano's narrative. Who will oppose Cayetano now when the 2021 budget is for their reelection purposes. Dapat pala nag jack en poy sila kung sino mauuna,” he said.