Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday announced his resignation, ending a standoff with a rival speaker that has stalled the passage of next year’s budget, including funds for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cayetano made the announcement in a Facebook video message from his neighborhood while legislators were ratifying the election of his rival, Philippine Representative Lord Allan Velasco as speaker.
Both are allies of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had brokered a power-sharing deal that went awry this week and set off the standoff.
Cayetano and his allied legislators mocked Velasco’s election on Monday as speaker by his supporters in a sports club outside Congress.
He said he was giving way to avoid damage to the 300-strong legislative chamber as a democratic institution.
“If we bastardize Congress, we’re also bastardizing our country,” Cayetano said in his video message.
Despite the easing of the impasse, Duterte yesterday called Cayetano and Velasco to a meeting at the presidential palace, mainly to ensure the rapid passage of a proposed 4.5 trillion peso (US$92.7 billion) budget, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Philippine Chief of Staff General Gilbert Gapay said the military has kept an eye on the House impasse.
“We were just getting prepared in case it gets out of hand because sometimes during situations like this, many may take advantage,” Gapay said at a news conference.
Duterte brokered a power-sharing deal last year in which Cayetano would assume the speakership for 15 months until this month, to be followed by Velasco, who would serve as speaker for the remaining 21 months.
Cayetano recently offered to step down, but his camp said a majority of lawmakers voted to reject his resignation.
After Cayetano steered the initial approval of the budget, his camp abruptly suspended congressional sessions, pre-empting Velasco’s assumption of the speakership under the power-sharing deal.
Several lawmakers protested that the suspension blocked them from scrutinizing the budget, including crucial appropriations for the Department of Health, which is spearheading efforts to contain COVID-19 outbreaks.
With top police and military generals standing beside him, Duterte went on TV last week to warn that he would intercede if the House leadership crisis threatens the passage of the budget.
He later called for a special session of the House starting yesterday to ensure the budget’s approval.
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