By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte listens as House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano responds to the discussion during a meeting with Speaker Cayetano, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Jay Velasco and several members of the House of Representatives at the Malacañang Golf (MALAGO) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on Sept. 29, 2020. The President called on Cayetano and Velasco, who were accompanied by their respective partymates and supporters in the Lower House, to discuss matters affecting Congress lately. ROBINSON NIÑAL/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday decried House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies for “railroading” the passage of the 2021 national budget bill and altering the congressional calendar prior to his supposed assumption of the speakership post on Oct. 14.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed on second reading the P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 and suspended plenary sessions days ahead of the original Oct. 17 to Nov. 15 congressional break schedule.

Cayetano was supposed to step down on Oct. 14 to give way to the term-sharing agreement between him and Velasco.

In a statement, Velasco accused Cayetano of rushing the national budget passage unconstitutionally to “evade” the Oct. 14 transition.

He said Cayetano manipulated the House calendar after failing to secure the full support of President Rodrigo Duterte during their latest meeting.

“The foregoing acts manifest Speaker Cayetano’s extreme desire to hold on and hang on to power in clear defiance of President Duterte’s desire for the passage of fair and equitable budget that serves nothing but the interests of the Filipino people,” he added.

The first term of the 15-21 term-sharing deal was supposed to expire on Sept 30. If upheld, Velasco will be speaker from October 2020 until June 2022.

During the plenary session, Cayetano asserted that he was not holding the bill hostage.

“Sabi ni Congressman Velasco, hostage ko raw ang budget. Kung hostage ko po ‘yung budget, I will now move to defer the budget and to take it up in November, if hino-hostage ko raw ang budget. But I will prove to Congressman Velasco and his cohorts that I am not hostaging the budget,” Cayetano said in his speech.

He also moved to terminate the period of debate for the General Appropriations Bill citing Section 55 of the House rules.

Only when plenary sessions resume in November can the House vote on the 2021 budget on final reading.

‘Railroaded passage’

Velasco said that Cayetano violated House rules by giving members of the House little time to scrutinize the budget proposal prior to its passage.

Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza accused Cayetano of the same, saying he was muted in the virtual conference when he tried to express his objection to the bill and the early suspension of plenary sessions.

The suspension was also not approved by the Senate, Velasco said.

Section 16, Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution reads: “Neither House during the sessions of the Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.”

“Because of Speaker Cayetano’s desperate attempt to stay in power, he has bastardized the institution we swore to protect and respect and committed serious violations of the Constitution to save himself,” Velasco said.

“He knows very well that he no longer enjoys the trust and confidence of House members. This caper is the last nail to his coffin. Speaker Cayetano, you’re time is up,” he added.

Duterte, who brokered the term-sharing deal himself, will not meddle in the House speakership dispute, according to his spokesman.