House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s move to hastily pass the 2021 national budget bill and thwart Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco’s supposed takeover of the speakership was a “very astute” political ploy, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Wednesday.

Cayetano was supposed to step down on Oct. 14 to give way to the term-sharing deal between him and Velasco but the House suspended plenary sessions until Nov. 16 after it passed on second reading the P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 on Tuesday.

Velasco said the move was “unconstitutional” but according to Palace spokesman Harry Roque, it was a legal move that showed Cayetano’s experience as a longtime lawmaker.

“It’s not illegal. But I would think it’s a very astute political move because it avoided intramurals that could possibly happen on Oct. 14,” he said in an interview over CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“For what it is worth, I think you need to have the experience of Speaker Cayetano because he has dealt with the same rules ‘no, not only for three terms as congressman – this is already his fourth term as congressman – but also as a two-termer senator,” Roque added.

Because of the suspension of plenary sessions, the earliest the House speakership issue can be tackled again is on Nov. 17, more than a month after Velasco’s supposed assumption of the post on Oct. 14.

Velasco accused Cayetano of violating House rules by giving members of the House little time to scrutinize the budget proposal and express objections prior to its passage.

The microphone-muting incident on Tuesday’s session, Roque said, was not an isolated case as it occured even in physical sessions of Congress.

‘Enough’ time to finish budget deliberations

In a statement, Roque said the Senate was given ample time to finish deliberations on the proposed budget and expressed confidence it would be passed at the soonest.

“The president’s message is clear: we cannot delay the passage of the national budget,” Roque said.

“We are confident that the Senate has enough time to finish its deliberations and there should be no reason for delay. There is plenty of time between now and Nov. 16 for committee deliberations to continue and come November there will be enough time for plenary deliberations in the Senate,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro