Sideliners are anticipating a big showdown when the House of Representatives holds special sessions tomorrow after Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano ineffectively closed the Batasang Pambansa last week in hopes of ducking away from Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
Hold your bets, though. It isn’t sure if a gigantic clash would happen between the speakership rivals. That’s the official line from both camps. The buzz beneath says it differently.
Velasco will now shepherd the majority of the congressmen to face Cayetano and his closest allies who want their version of the 2021 budget sent straight to the Senate, belatedly as it has yet to pass the third reading.
That Cayetano act, however, would give the smaller yet equally-powerful chamber a very limited time to scrutinize it.
Cayetano’s version of the budget is believed to be pork-laden. Several congressmen have leaked portions of the national expenditure program, which was like manna from heaven for Cayetano and his peers.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the congressmen to go back to Batasan and do their jobs. It was a rebuke slammed straight against Cayetano’s face.
The Speaker has no choice but to heed the President’s order, even if he had attempted to make him look weak — a lame duck even. He could not match the President’s power and influence. He would not have been in his place had he not hitched on Duterte’s coattails.
It is not clear yet whether Velasco and his allies will be given a chance to be heard during the deliberations, though. They were muted by Cayetano’s crew during the past weeks of scorching scenes from the Alan Cayetano Show. It could be repeated but it will only show desperation on Cayetano’s part to hang on the speakership.
He had lost it long ago.
No less than Mr. Duterte — Cayetano’s own enabler who made him his vice-presidential partner in 2016, his Foreign Affairs secretary and then the Speaker supposedly for 15 months — had told Velasco that they have been duped by the supposed gentleman from Taguig City.
Duterte is now said to be full of regrets in making Cayetano bigger than what he is.
Last we heard, Duterte supposedly had told those closest to him that he should have chosen Bongbong Marcos for his vice-presidential candidate.
“Nagoyo tayo (We were duped),” the President supposedly told Velasco.
Cayetano will be tested today when he faces Congress to have the 2021 national budget approved in third reading.
It should be easy.
What would be tough to cover is the budget some lawmakers are said to have inserted to make their “pork” look legitimate.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III is confident these insertions would not go unnoticed.
He has faith in the watchful eyes of Senators Frank Drilon, Panfilo Lacson and Ralph Recto.
But Cayetano was charged of delaying the official submission of the budget due to the presence of these lawmakers who have not allowed past budgets to become lodging areas for “pork barrel.”
Cayetano knows time is not friendly to those in a hurry.
These senators, however, will not hasten the approval of the budget without giving it a pass, line by line.
Last week, Sotto raised the likelihood of the government working with a reenacted budget next year. It will have a tremendous impact on the economy while shaking up the finances of the government’s projects while we are facing a bigger yet unseen enemy in COVID-19.
With his back against the wall, Cayetano asked for a ceasefire. The senators have no problem with that. They will honor that plea.
The Speaker is fighting in so many battlefronts he had created for himself. So, let the ceasefire take effect.
Aside from the budget and the speakership, fingers are also pointed at Cayetano for the supposedly missing millions spent by the two, distinct Phisgoc groups he had formed to handle the hosting of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
While the country won the overall championship in that biennial meet, that credit goes to the national sports associations which trained the athletes, and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) which spent for those training and the athletes’ needs.
The Phisgoc has nothing to do with all those. Its function was to manage the Games and make Cayetano’s face look good. It did not succeed in both.
There’s also the likelihood of Taguig City losing the Bonifacio Global City, which the Cayetanos consider as their gem. But wait, the Binays of Makati are claiming their lock on it. We’ll wait what the court will say on that matter.
So today, it’s the budget.
But majority of the House is restless. They want Cayetano removed as Speaker.
Velasco also knows he has it in the bag. Because that’s how it was supposed to be, until Cayetano reneged on their “gentlemen’s agreement.”
Yes, he did.