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Duterte: End House crisis or else
« on: October 09, 2020, 06:16:53 AM »
Duterte: End House crisis or else
By the Inquirer Staff / 05:30 AM October 09, 2020

President Duterte on Thursday night threatened to step in to save the P4.5-trillion proposed budget for 2021 from delay if the members of the House of Representatives failed to resolve the crisis caused by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s delaying the turnover of the leadership to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco under a term-sharing agreement.

To prevent a leadership vote, Cayetano terminated plenary debates on the budget on Tuesday and suspended the session well ahead of the Oct. 17 date for the House to leave town. He set the resumption of session for Nov. 16, which the senators said would cause them to lose a month’s time for budget deliberation.

The delay, the senators said, would certainly lead to a reenacted budget for 2021.

Malacañang said on Wednesday that President Duterte did not want a reenacted budget because his proposed budget for 2021 contained new spending for programs that would enable the country to recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cryptic warning

In a 15-minute televised address to the nation on Thursday night, Duterte issued a cryptic warning, but did not say what exactly he would do to end the leadership row in the House.

“I want to say it in one straight statement: Either you resolve the [leadership impasse there] and pass the budget, legally and constitutionally, [or], if you don’t do it, I will do it for you,” Duterte said.

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Resumption of session

The Makabayan party list coalition in the House also urged resumption of session to continue the budget deliberations, including debates on the appropriations for 14 government agencies.

“We call on the House leadership to immediately resume the suspended plenary session, reconsider approval on second reading, and continue the public deliberations on the general appropriations bill,” the bloc said in a statement.

Velasco also called for a resumption of the session to pass the budget.

In a statement, he called on Cayetano to “set aside political differences,” as the budget issue “is far bigger than the fight for the speakership.”

“Blackmailing the executive department to cede to one’s personal ambition or holding the budget hostage in order to achieve one’s political whim is a great disservice to the Filipino people,” Velasco said.

‘Small committee’
But Cayetano rejected the calls for resumption of the session, saying putting the budget through plenary deliberations again would only expose it to “political saboteurs.”

“If we continue the budget hearing on the floor, it will now be politicized, as there are saboteurs, there were people who have personal intentions, and members of Congress and the departments could no longer talk eye to eye,” Cayetano said.

“This is not a shortcut, this is a better way,” he said.

It was Cayetano himself who took the floor on Tuesday and moved for the termination of debates on the budget bill and its approval on second reading, bypassing the period of amendments.

Instead of the period of amendment, he moved that House members propose “committee and individual amendments” to a “small committee” composed of 13 staunch allies.

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Cayetano said “intrigues” sown by Velasco’s camp had led to the withholding of funds for projects proposed by lawmakers in the 2020 budget.

“I don’t want that to happen again this year because if funds are again held, the ones that suffer are not the legislator, the mayor, or the governor, but the people because that fund is for them,” he said.

Under a term-sharing deal brokered by President Duterte in July last year, Cayetano would serve as Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress and Velasco would take over for the last 21 months of the term.

Duterte met with the two men in Malacañang on Sept. 25 and told them that he hoped they would honor their agreement.

House drama

On Sept. 30, however, Cayetano interrupted the budget deliberations and offered to resign. His allies called a vote to reject his resignation with a vote of 184-1. But Velasco’s camp said the Marinduque congressman was gaining more support and that he had a following of at least 160 as of Oct. 4. Two days later, sensing Velasco’s camp was gearing for a leadership vote, Cayetano terminated work on the budget and suspended the session. Before the President went on television with his threat on Thursday, Velasco’s camp said it would proceed with a leadership vote on Oct. 14.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon, a follower of Velasco, said the presumptive Speaker already had the support of 161 members of the 300-strong House.

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« Last Edit: October 09, 2020, 06:21:32 AM by adroth »