Malacañang welcomes Velasco as Speaker, says House can now focus on budget

Malacañang welcomed the election of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco as House Speaker, saying the development means the lower chamber can now focus on passing the 2021 national budget.

"We look forward to working with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco because he is also a very close ally of this administration and I think the full cooperation between the executive and Congress will continue under the leadership of congressman Speaker Lord Allan Velasco," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday, October 13.

Only moments earlier, Velasco was formally voted as House Speaker, with Taguig City-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano saying in a video livestreamed minutes later that he was "resigning" from the post.

For the Palace, the leadership change means the rivalry has now been resolved and House lawmakers can now focus on passing their version of the 2021 budget bill during the special session called by Duterte that will last until October 16.

"We thank the members of the House of Representatives because they heard the request of the President to set aside politics and pass the anti-COVID budget for the year 2021," said Roque.

"Now the President is very optimistic that the budget will be passed because politics has been set aside," he also said.

Malacañang thanked Cayetano for his leadership of the lower chamber.

Duterte's role?

Roque was very careful in responding to questions about the extent of Duterte's involvement in Velasco's victory.

Asked if it was Duterte who convinced lawmakers to replace Cayetano with Velasco, Roque said, "not the President."

The spokesman kept reiterating that Duterte respects the decisions of House members. On Monday, October 12, he even said it no longer matters to the President who sits as Speaker as long as the House passes the 2021 budget by the end of October 16.

This deadline needs to be met so that the Senate will have enough time to take up the House's version of the bill in plenary, which in turn is necessary for a consolidated budget bill to be readied for Duterte's signature before the end of the year.

Duterte is scheduled to meet with Velasco and Cayetano on Tuesday afternoon. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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