President Rodrigo Duterte made a rare address to the nation on Thursday to send a message his allies who are wrangling for the leadership of the House of Representatives: Don't let politics get in the way of passing the P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 that is key to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
People are getting sick and dying from the novel coronavirus, something that all politicians should keep in mind at this time, the 75-year-old leader said.
Duterte issued the statement as Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco feuded over a term-sharing deal that the latter wanted to enforce on Oct. 14. Senators have expressed concern that the rivalry could imperil the budget proceedings.
"Gusto ko lang sabihin in one straight statement: Either you resolve the issue sa impasse ninyo yan and pass the budget legally and consitutionally. Pag hindi ninyo ginawa, ako ang gagawa para sa inyo," Duterte said.
"If you do not solve the problem then I will solve the problem for you. Mamili kayo," Duterte said, adding, "Everybody wants to be speaker."
Duterte said he was not giving the rival factions a deadline. "If and when I see there will be a delay and it will result in the derailment of government service I will, as I said, solve the problem for you."
What happened before the President's statement?
On Tuesday, Cayetano passed the 2021 budget on second reading, effectively terminating debates on the floor and adjourning the session until mid-November. With the House in recess, it could not elect Velasco as speaker.
Senate President Tito Sotto and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Cayetano's move would disrupt the timeline for the 2021 budget passage, which needs to be passed before the end of the year. Otherwise, the government will temporarily run using the 2020 spending plan.
A timely passage of the 2021 budget is important since the P4.5-trillion plan is anchored on rescuing the country from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cayetano and Velasco met with Duterte last week in Malacanang over the gentleman's agreement, which the chief executive brokered between his two allies. Cayetano was his 2016 running mate while Velasco is close to his daughter and political heiress, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Duterte said Thursday that he was not taking sides.
"Wag nyo na ako idamay sa away ninyo tapos in the future people will ask, what happeend to the administration of Duterte? to the administration of Aquino? to the administration of Arroyo? to the administration of Ramos?"