(UPDATE) Elected Speaker by his colleagues, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco entered the House of Representatives main session hall Tuesday to get to work on the 2021 national budget. The main door was closed so he got in through the second floor.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano soon after tendered his irrevocable resignation. He also addressed his staff and supporters ahead of their 3 p.m. session: "Elect the new speaker and pass the budget."
Velasco was enforcing his term-sharing deal with Cayetano that was brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019. The Chief Executive said the two should settle their differences and pass the 2021 COVID-fighting budget legally and on time.
"We will take our House back," Velasco told reporters as he entered the plenary, wearing a face mask and face shield and shielded by his aides. Asked what else could be expected from sessions later in the day, he said: "We'll see."
Duterte called for a special session to pass the 2021 National Budget starting Tuesday. Cayetano last week adjourned sessions until mid-November after passing the budget on second reading. This effectively scuttled Velasco's Oct. 14 assumption to the speakership under the term-sharing. The budget or any bill for that matter, needs to be passed on three readings.
Cayetano went live on Facebook where he thanked Duterte for giving him the opportunity to serve in the Cabinet. He apologized if he "misunderstood" Duterte on how the budget hearings should proceed.
"Hindi ko intention, never, na hindi ka sundin," Cayetano addressed Duterte, with whom he ran as vice president in 2016.
"All of that is under the bridge. let's unite Congress. The institution is important. It's an institution of democracy.... Pag binaboy natin ang Kongreso, binaboy din natin ang bansa," he said.
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Duterte met with Velasco and Cayetano before the plenary session late Tuesday, said his long-time aide, Sen. Bong Go. "All is well. Parang tatay si Tatay Digong. Kinausap mga anak nya. Pinagpayuhan na magkaisa," Go told reporters.
"They picked a bad time for this rivalry to happen between the camps of both, I assume are claiming to be the House speaker," said political analyst Cleve Arguelles of Australia National University.
"This is not an ordinary budget we are talking about. This is the budget that will hopefully get us out of the crisis we are now facing," he told Early Edition on ANC.
The P4.5-trillion budget is designed to help the Philippines recover from the twin health and economic crisis spawned by the coronavirus pandemic. Should it fail to pass before the year ends, the country will temporarily run on the 2020 budget until the 2021 version is signed into law.