(Photo Courtesy: http://www.pna.gov.com)

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 on 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.

STILL HANDS OFF

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. 

It was on Tuesday that the House moved to terminate deliberations until November 16, effectively blocking the intention of Velasco to take over the House leadership by October 14.

Also, the House approved the proposed P4.56-trillion 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), with Cayetano saying he wanted “to prove that he was was not taking the national budget hostage,” as accused by Velasco.

Last week, Duterte said he was more interested in the House getting the proposed P4.56-trillion 2021 budget that had programs and projects to help the economy recover from the battering it got from the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

The approved budget for this year is P4.1 trillion.

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