House of Representatives

Duterte calls Cayetano, Velasco to Palace before special session

Pia Ranada
Duterte calls Cayetano, Velasco to Palace before special session

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on October 5, 2020. Malacañang photo

The President is set to meet with his warring allies amid the special session he called for the timely passage of the 2021 national budget

President Rodrigo Duterte called rival lawmakers Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco to a meeting in Malacañang hours before the special session he asked Congress to hold on Tuesday, October 13.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque confirmed this to Rappler on Tuesday morning. The meeting is expected to take place at 12:30 pm, hours before the 3 pm plenary session of the House of Representatives.
Roque, in a statement, said the meeting is “regarding the passage of the 2021 budget.”

Cayetano and Velasco will confer with the President fresh from their Monday showdown, in which Velasco got 186 out of 299 lawmakers to elect him as Speaker – in an unprecedented session held at a sports club because the House plenary hall was padlocked.

Cayetano dismissed the proceedings as a “fake session” and maintained that a majority of House members still want him to stay on as Speaker.

The impasse is expected to be resolved Tuesday when the House convenes in the special session called by Duterte for the timely passage of the 2021 national budget, which is both a pandemic budget and election year budget.

Duterte has so far met with Velasco and Cayetano, either separately or together, at least 3 times in recent weeks just on the issue of the speakership and the term-sharing deal he brokered for them. In this deal, which Duterte proposed to keep the peace among his House allies, Cayetano was to be speaker only until October and Velasco would assume the post until the end of the President’s term.

But Cayetano refused to honor the deal, citing the support of a majority of lawmakers for his continued speakership. This was formalized when 184 lawmakers voted, on September 30, to reject his resignation and keep him as speaker.

Velasco then slammed Cayetano for violating the terms of the agreement. He sought a meeting with Duterte where he asked for the Chief Executive’s blessing to run for Speaker. Duterte said it was Velasco’s “right” to seek the speakership.

But Cayetano, in another shock move, suspended the House session a week ahead of schedule, robbing Velasco of a chance to run for speaker. But the move also delays 2021 national budget deliberations which angered Duterte, who is adamant that the budget be passed before the year ends. This is to avoid a scenario when the government is forced to use the 2020 budget for next year, a budget which is smaller and less responsive to the pandemic.

So Duterte called a special session from October 13 to 16 which effectively reversed Cayetano’s decision and now gives Velasco the chance to be formally elected as Speaker. Velasco’s disputed election as Speaker on Monday at Celebrity Sports Club is seen by political observers as a show of force to wrestle the top post from Cayetano.

But a meeting with Duterte, whose word can change the tide at the House, may be what it takes to convince one of the two rivals to yield to the other so that politics will no longer get in the way of the budget. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.