REP. Lord Allan Velasco has won the support of at least 200 members of the House of Representatives, more than enough to oust Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, according to former House Deputy Speaker and 1-Pacman party-list Rep. Michael Romero.
Romero was among Velasco’s allies who lost key leadership positions amid the speakership row.
Valenzuela City Rep. Eric Martinez, who also lost a committee chairmanship because of the infighting, told The Manila Times that the number of Velasco’s supporters “is climbing alarmingly fast.”
The statement came following reports that Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio met with Velasco on Friday.
According to Mindoro Rep. Salvador Paulino Leachon, the mayor would endorse Velasco as speaker this week, “but without interruption in the budget deliberation.”
“She’s doing it as a friend of Congresman Velasco. Besides, she believes that parties to the term-sharing agreement must be gentlemen enough to comply,” he said.
He added that the presidential daughter believes that “non-adherence to the agreement is defiance to her father.”
The mayor was said to have been lobbying for Velasco, a longtime family friend, since the start of the speakership race last year.
Duterte-Carpio was believed to have played a key role in the ouster of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and the installation of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as head of the chamber in 2018.
Leachon said the most honorable thing for Cayetano to do was to stand by his agreement with Velasco by stepping down on October 14.
“It’s either he steps down and save face or suffer the ignominy of being ousted by his peers in Congress. His time is up,” he added.
On Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to House members to rise above politics and approve the 2021 budget measure.
The message of the President was relayed by Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr.
“Ang panawagan po niya sa ating mga kongresista: isantabi muna po ang pulitika para mapasa po natin ang 2021 budget (The President is calling on the congressmen to set aside politics to that the 2021 can be approved),” Roque said.
Duterte called Congress to a four-day special session beginning Wednesday specifically to tackle the budget measure.
Cayetano and Velasco have promised to abide by the President’s wish for a truce and work together on the budget bill.
Last October 6, the House approved the P4.5-trillion 2021 General Appropriations Bill on second reading and suspended sessions until November 16.
The move was seen as a way to block Velasco’s camp from unseating Cayetano on October 14.
Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said the House would take up the speakership issue only after the proposed 2021 budget has been approved on final reading.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., a deputy speaker, said in a press briefing on Sunday that “if anyone wants to invoke leadership change, or any other matter, that should be secondary to the budget.”
He added that “as soon as the budget is approved, anything and everything can be raised on the floor.”
In the Senate, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he prefers holding the special session from November 9 to November 13 to guarantee that the proposed P4.5-trillion General Appropriations Act will be approved on time.
“We will debate on the budget from November 9 to 13. We can finish it within five to seven days and allot two weeks for the bicam[eral conference],” he shared on Sunday.
“Congress can send to Malacanang the 2021 GAA by the first week of December so that the President can sign it before January 1, 2021,” he said in a radio interview.
Drilom proposed the holding of a special session during the one-month break “in order to guarantee the passage of the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act on time.”
Congress adjourns on October 17 and resumes in mid-November.
He stressed the urgency to have the budget enacted on time.
“Just look at these alarming figures: 7.6 million families are hungry, 7.3 million lost jobs last April and 4.6 million in July, and 5.5 million of our countrymen can be pushed into poverty next without sufficient economic relief from the government,” Drilon said.
Drilon said a delayed budget will affect the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Management Association of the Philippines thanked Duterte for calling a special session of congress and certifying the budget bill urgent.
“We call on our politicians to think of country first and subordinate their personal political interests to the public good.Your duty as public servants demands no less and anything short is an extreme disservice to our people,” the group headed by Francis Lim said.
WITH REINA C. TOLENTINO AND BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO