Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday rebuked Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco for being impatient to take over the leadership of the House of Representatives, advising the latter to stop sowing intrigue in a bid to force a premature change in the speakership.
“[The President] has left it to us to settle the problem. The President’s instructions were very clear: That [Martin Romualdez] will be Majority Leader for 36 months, and then the 15-21 arrangement [for the speakership],” Cayetano said.
“The President only needs to intervene if someone fails to abide by the agreement. But I am not one to just wait for a coup to happen because of some falsehood and then run to the President for rescue. If I cannot keep my position for 15 months, I will blame no one but myself,” he added.
Under the term-sharing agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte, Cayetano will serve as Speaker for 15 months or until October, while Velasco will take over for the remainder of the 18th Congress or until June 2022.
Cayetano, however, accused Velasco of masterminding efforts to oust him as Speaker, and retaliated by removing Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab as chairman of the powerful Committee on Appropriations and Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon as chairman of the chamber’s contingent to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.
Ungab was earlier endorsed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago for the speakership, but he lost to Cayetano. Leachon, a supporter of Velasco, earlier had a spat with Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte whom he accused of trying to influence the HRET.
For his part, the President will not interfere in the internal affairs of Congress, the Palace said Thursday, following remarks from HNP that Ungab’s removal from his committee post was an “insult” to the Chief Executive.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo maintained Duterte would keep his hands off the squabble in the House of Representatives over changes in leadership.
“The President will not interfere in Congress intramurals,” Panelo said.
HNP, the regional party of Davao City Mayor and presidential daughter Sara Duterte, said Ungab “was specifically chosen” by President Duterte as chairman of the appropriations committee.
HNP also said the President did not order Ungab’s removal as chairman of the powerful committee.
Ungab was replaced by Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support party-list Rep. Eric Yap.
As this developed, Cayetano on Thursday said the House would allocate the 2021 national budget equitably among local government units, congressional districts and agencies.
He said this “federalism in the budget” would make sure that there is no province, city or municipality that’s left behind in the allocation of funds.”
“Federalism is more sustainable because it is more equitable. It is more inclusive. If you are not equitable, you are not inclusive. There should be no excuse that remote rural areas would have no electricity or water supply,” Cayetano said.
He said his chamber would ensure that enough funds would be allocated to President Duterte’s massive Build, Build, Build infrastructure program.
Cayetano said the President wants projects that would take several years to complete, like the planned Metro Manila subway, be started soon so the people can benefit from them.
He added that the Chief Executive wishes that at least three subway stations would be built by the end of his six-year term in June 2022.
Cayetano said budget reforms in the House would require “a change of approach, including the timeline” in the budget enactment process.
“It’s too tedious. The President proposes the budget in July, we are done with the deliberations in the House in October, the Senate finishes its own consideration of the proposal in November, and we finally approve it and the President signs it in December. By March, biddings are still not finished. So we will try to redo all of that [to speed up the process],” he said.
The administration’s economic managers are considering a budget of P4.6 trillion for next year, at least P500 billion more than this year’s P4.1 trillion.
The current 18th Congress approved the 2020 appropriations bill before yearend last year. The President signed it at the start of the new year.
The enactment of the 2019 budget by the previous Congress was delayed by at least three months due to wrangling between the House and the Senate over alleged budget insertions.
In contrast, Cayetano said, last year’s deliberations on the P4.1-trillion 2020 spending program were transparent.
“During the bicameral conference, in the spirit of transparency, it was the first time that the Senate gave us their proposed changes and we gave them our proposed amendments,” he said.
He said the House proposals “were not pork,” citing as an example the P1-billion camp development fund his chamber allocated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
“Is that pork? I do not even know which camp will benefit from the appropriation,” he added.