Duterte warns he’ll intercede if House squabble risks budget

MANILA (AP) – The Philippine President warned on Thursday he will intercede and resolve a leadership row in the House of Representatives if the impasse threatens to stall the passage of next year’s budget during the coronavirus crisis.

President Rodrigo Duterte did not elaborate on what he would do if House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Representative Lord Allan Velasco fail to end their rivalry over leadership of the 300-member legislative chamber. Duterte appeared on TV to air his warning with top military and police officials behind him.

“Either you resolve the issue on your impasse there and pass the budget legally and constitutionally and if you don’t do it, I’ll do it for you,” Duterte said.

“Think of the Filipinos who are in the hospital and need medicine and those who may die at this time without medicine, without anything,” Duterte said, adding he should not be dragged into the leadership squabble.

Velasco said he should assume the speakership by October 14 under a power-sharing deal brokered by Duterte. But Cayetano demanded that Velasco prove he has the backing of most legislators, then abruptly allowed the suspension of congressional sessions until November 16, pre-empting any attempt to wrest control of Congress from him.

Cayetano’s camp steered the initial approval of the proposed 2021 national budget amounting to PHP4.5 trillion (USD90 billion), then announced the congressional break.

Several lawmakers protested that they were deprived of their right to scrutinise the budget and called for an immediate resumption of congressional sessions.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, the Philippines. PHOTO: AP