House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano
MANILA – House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s move to suspend sessions until November 16 amid the speakership row is not “illegal” but an “astute political move,” Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the remark after Cayetano forced the early suspension of the session and the approval on the second reading of the proposed 2021 budget on Tuesday night.
“It’s not illegal but I would think it’s a very astute political move because it avoided intramurals that could have possibly happened on October 14,” Roque said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source.
With the House now in recess, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco would not be able to call for the election of a new Speaker until November.
“For what it’s worth, I think you need to have the experience of Speaker Alan Cayetano because he has dealt with the same rules not only for three terms as Congressman. This is already his fourth term as Congressman, but also as a two-termer Senator,” he added.
In 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte brokered a term-sharing agreement where Cayetano would serve as Speaker until October 2020 while Velasco would supposedly take over and assume the position until the 18th Congress ends in 2022.
However, Cayetano’s move preempted any attempt to snatch away the leadership from him at least until mid-November.
“There was a plenary vote that they will go on break already. That means no one can question already the Speakership on October 14,” Roque said.
Following claims made by Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza that he was forcibly muted by the secretariat and thus could not pose an objection to pass the general appropriations bill, Roque said it was not the first time it happened.
“Whether or not you’re on Zoom or on live, that has been done by House leaderships actually. It’s not the first time in the history of either the House or the Senate that mics have been muted,” he said.
Roque recalled how supporters of then Pampanga 2nd District representative, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, could not be heard because the microphone was off when then-House Speaker and Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez was ousted in a coup d’etat.
“In fact, GMA was proclaimed speaker with the mic turned off. And another thing that they literally do when they want to achieve a major objective is they run away with the seal,” he added.
Roque, meanwhile, stood by his earlier remark saying that the President would no longer interfere in the Speakership row as it is an “internal matter” of the Lower House.
“The House is an independent branch of government and the President has taken the view that the leadership row is a purely internal matter of the House of Representatives,” he said.
Roque said Duterte had already told Velasco that he “had the right” to run as House Speaker in a meeting between them Tuesday night.
The President still hopes his allies would honor their term-sharing deal, he added. (PNA)