President Rodrigo Duterte wants the proposed P4.56-trillion national budget for 2021 to be the sole topic of discussions when the House of Representatives holds its special session from today, October 13. to the 16th.

In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte no longer wanted to be involved in the speakership row that threatens the timely passage of the proposed national budget.

“Any talk of speakership will delay the passage of the 2021 budget,” he said, adding that Duterte did not care who would sit as House Speaker.

Roque said lawmakers were free to dispute over the speakership, but only after the proposed budget is passed. Duterte wants the proposed 2021 budget passed as it is vital  to reviving the country’s economy that has been battered by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic (Covid-19).

“Ang siguradung-sigurado po na sinabi ng Presidente, in the Visayan, ‘Natagam na’ko diyan sa pulitika.’ Dalang-dala na ako sa pulitika. Bahala na kayo kung anong gusto ninyong gawin. Pero, meanwhile, ang pakiusap niya ipasa ang 2021 budget (What the President said is, in the Visayan ‘I’m fed up with politicking’. Do whatever you want. But meanwhile, he is appealing to them to pass the 2021 budget),” he said.

Not favoring anyone

According to Roque, Duterte was not favoring either Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as speaker of the lower chamber of Congress.

Kung mayroon pong mga nagsasabi diyan na the President is endorsing one over the other, hindi po totoo iyan (If there are people saying that the President is endorsing one over the other, it’s not true),” he said.

He said Duterte is hoping that the proposed budget would be passed by October 16.

Wala na po siyang pakialam. Bahala na ang mga members ng Kongreso ang pumili pero matapos po nilang maipasa ang budget hopefully on October 16 (He doesn’t care. It’s up to members of Congress to select their speaker but after they pass the budget hopefully on October 16),” he added.

Roque said the timely passage of the proposed 2021 budget should be the top priority of the Congress amid the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

Last Friday, Duterte, through Proclamation 1027, called on the Congress to hold a special session from October 13 to 16 to “resume the congressional deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on the prompt passage thereof in accordance with the Constitution and applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”

Cayetano and Velasco are currently embroiled in a fight for the highest position in the House of Representatives despite a supposed term-sharing agreement.

Under the agreement brokered by Duterte, Cayetano is to serve as Speaker in the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, then Velasco takes over the remaining 21 months beginning this month.

On Monday, a total of 186 House members elected Velasco as next Speaker in a remote plenary session at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City.

Cayetano, however, insisted that the session where Velasco was elected was “fake” as it was held outside the session hall of the House of Representatives at Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City.

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