Paolo Duterte ally sees Cayetano keeping speakership despite ouster calls

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — An ally of Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte has expressed doubts that the ouster of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano will still push through despite calls to boot him out of office due to 2021 budget clash among lawmakers.

"Para sa akin, 99.99% hindi po [matutuloy]. Mamayang hapon po, tingin ko hindi naman mangyayari iyan," House appropriations panel chair Eric Yap said Monday in an interview with CNN Philippines' Balitaan.

[Translation: For me, the ouster will 99.99% not push through. I don't think that will happen at all this afternoon.]

Yap bared that Duterte had relayed to him on Sunday the frustrations of their colleagues over other congressmen, including Cayetano, who will get a larger share of the 2021 budget under the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Yap and Duterte were referring to the ₱8-billion projects for the two districts of Taguig, the turf of the speaker and his wife Rep. Lani Cayetano, and the ₱11-billion worth of project for the five legislative districts of Camarines Sur, represented by Cayetano's allies. Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves first brought up the issue during the budget hearing of the DPWH before it got suspended last Thursday.

"Yung budget, hindi po Congress ang gumawa. Ang DPWH ang nag-identify nito at sinubmit lang po sa amin ito ng DBM (Congress does not make hte budget. The DPWH identifies this then submits it to the Department of Budget and Management)," Yap said.

Yap noted that while no "loyalty check" was conducted among lawmakers, the lower chamber would nevertheless not want to derail the budget's approval.

"Kapag idineclare na vacant [ang speakership at deputy speakership] ngayon, magkakaroon ng palitan, magkakaroon ng gulo. Made-delay ang budget, ang tao ang kawawa."

[Translation: If someone declares the speakership and deputy speakership posts vacant now, someone has to take over, and there could be chaos. Budget could be delayed, and the people will suffer.]

Duterte issued a statement on Sunday, confirming an earlier text message that he had sent to one of his colleagues that stirred speculations of a brewing House shakeup to boot Cayetano out of office.

"The text message that I sent to another lawmaker — and is now making the rounds — was an expression of my personal dismay upon hearing the concerns of my fellow lawmakers," Duterte said.

Duterte was referring to his own strongly-worded message which indicated that he will declare the speakership and deputy speakership posts vacant today, September 21.

That message, which he himself said was intended for Appropriations committee chair Eric Yap last week, read: "Sinabihan ko na kayo nananahimik lang ako kasi di na ako kinakausap nina Speaker ngayon nadamay ako. I will ask the Mindanao bloc to declare the seat of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers vacant ngayong Monday. Di mamamatay ang Mindanao dahil walang budget."

[Translation: I already told you, I am just keeping silent because the Speaker’s camp is not talking to me anymore, and now I am suddenly dragged into this. I will ask the Mindanao Bloc to declare the seat of Speaker and Deputy Speakers vacant this Monday.]

Duterte said in his latest statement that lawmakers "have the power to change the course of which the leadership is leading them," and that he himself is willing to accept being part of the "casualties" or deputy speakers who may be removed from office. He also said that he did not want to get involved in the leadership clash.

No move made

No move was made to oust Cayetano from the chamber’s top seat as the plenary session only lasted for 18 minutes on Monday afternoon.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened as the House plenary session started with an opening prayer, followed by the singing of the national anthem, roll call of members, and items on order of business being read into the records.

Today's session was presided over by Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, a member of Cayetano’s political party, Nacionalista Party.

Abu called for the suspension of session until tomorrow afternoon after all items on the order of business were read.

Yap said earlier that Duterte is expected to attend the session. However, Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, who physically attended the session, said Duterte was not physically present in the hall.

Cayetano has yet to finish his 15-month term which will end on October 18. Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco will then take over and finish the remaining 21 months of speakership under their three-year term deal.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing that the President is leaving it to the discretion of members of Congress to settle leadership issues.

However, the official emphasized that these disagreements must not hinder the passing of the 2021 budget.

"Let's just say because the 2021 budget is also our biggest stimulus package, non-negotiable po kay Presidente -- kinakailangan mapasa po yang budget on time (it’s non-negotiable for the President – the budget must be passed on time)," said Roque.