The House of Representatives on Tuesday abruptly approved the P4.5-trillion 2021 General Appropriations Bill on second reading and hastily suspended sessions until November 16 amid the tug of war on the speakership post.
This was seen by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as a “desperate attempt” of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to “stay in power.”
Cayetano moved to terminate the budget deliberations to prove that he was not holding the budget bill hostage.
He also moved for the creation of a panel that would handle committee and individual amendments, which would be entertained until November 5.
The committee will be composed of Majority Leader Martin Romualdez; Deputy Speakers Luis Raymund Villafuerte and Henry Oaminal; Appropriations Committee Chairman Eric Go Yap and Vice Chairman Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, Manuel Jose Dalipe and Teodoro Haresco; Banks Committee Chairman Junie Cua, Ways and Means Chairman Jose Maria Salceda, Minority Rep. Stella Luz Quimbo; Party-list bloc Rep. Michael Defensor; and Representatives Elpidio Barzaga Jr. and Eileen Ermita-Buhain.
Cayetano also slammed Velasco for insisting on an early turnover instead of agreeing with Duterte’s proposal to move the speakership take over in December.
“I’m sorry to our people that we have to do this at this time. Kung sumunod lang siya (Velasco) sa usapan na November ang palitan, kung marunong lang siyang magbilang na hanggang October talaga po ako, eh di wala po sanang problema (If only Velasco followed that agreement to the change leadership on November, if only,” he said.
With the suspension of session, the supposed take over of Velasco on October 14 would not push through as resignation and voting for the speakership post are done during plenary sessions.
Velasco condemned the “railroading” of the national budget and the “unconstitutional” suspension of session.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Velasco said House members “were not given the ample time to scrutinize the budget of various important government agencies.”
He pointed out that the approval on second reading was done without undergoing the “required budget process and procedure — sponsorship, debate, amendments — and crucial discussion with government agencies.”
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman echoed Velasco’s concern saying neither the House nor the Senate can suspend sessions without the consent of the other.
Velasco said the “maneuvering of the House Rules and Calendar” was “obviously an aftermath of Cayetano’s failure to secure Duterte’s full support and to “evade” the peaceful transition on October 14.
“Because of Speaker Cayetano’s desperate attempt to stay in power, he has bastardized the institution we swore to protect and respect and committed serious violations of the Constitution to save himself. He knows very well that he no longer enjoys the trust and confidence of House members. This caper is the last nail to his coffin. Speaker Cayetano, your time is up,” he added.
Buhay Party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza said the event “proves beyond doubt that Speaker Cayetano is desperately hanging on. He has just publicly confirmed that he is losing ground that’s why he did it.”
“He didn’t care about Constitutional integrity, throwing everything into the air and making Congress go on a long vacation. Ginulo niya lahat and he violated all the rules of the House. Many of us were objecting at the top of our voices but again, we were muted on Zoom and all our objections were thrown out the window,” he said.