(UPDATE) House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday led the passage of the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 on second reading, as he faced a challenge to his leadership from Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco.
The passage on second reading terminated debates and elevated the General Appropriations Act to third and final reading, during which it is considered passed in the House. The proceedings were done via Zoom.
Velasco is trying to enforce a "gentleman's agreement" with Cayetano, brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte that the two of them share the three-year term of the speaker under the current Congress. Velasco is supposed to assume the House leadership in mid-October.
Cayetano offered to resign last week, after he and Velasco met with Duterte, but his colleagues moved to keep him as speaker.
Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza condemned Cayetano's move, saying dissenters on the Zoom call were muted. "He didn’t care about Constitutional integrity, throwing everything into the air and making Congress go on a long vacation," Atienza said on Facebook.
The move effectively approved House Bill No. 7727 or the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Bill, while Cayetano's allies moved to suspend session until Nov. 16 soon after. Velasco wanted to assume the speakership on Oct. 14.
"This 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," Atienza said.