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Duterte calls Cayetano, Velasco to a meeting in Malacañang

President Rodrigo Duterte will meet with Representatives Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday in Malacañang ahead of the special session to resume the deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget.

Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said the President’s meeting with Cayetano and Velasco is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at the Malacañang Golf Club. Roque said the meeting will focus on the passage of the proposed P4.506-trillion budget.

Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez, an ally of Cayetano, also confirmed the meeting.

Duterte’s decision to call for a meeting comes a day after lawmakers allied with Velasco "elected" him as Speaker at a gathering at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City.

Monday's election happened on the eve of the special session called by Duterte on October 13 to 16, a move prompted by Cayetano’s decision to suspend the session last October 6, scuttling the October 14 deadline for passing the 2021 national budget on third and final reading.

Cayetano has slammed the Quezon City gathering as a “fake session” and warned those who “try to burn this House down” that they were in “for one hell of a fight.”

Velasco and Cayetano are parties to the term-sharing agreement brokered by Duterte in July last year. Under the agreement, Cayetano will hold the speakership for 15 months and Velasco will take over to finish the remaining 21 months.

On Tuesday morning, pro-Velasco lawmakers once again gathered at Celebrity Sports Plaza where Velasco was expected to give an address. 

Roque has repeatedly said that Duterte would not interfere in the leadership battle, adding the President indicated on Sunday that he was already fed up with House politics.

Last week, Duterte told the warring camps not to drag him into the speakership mess even though he met with Cayetano and Velasco on September 29 supposedly to iron out the issue.

Duterte then had separate meetings with Cayetano and Velasco on September 30 and October 5, respectively.  On October 6, Cayetano abruptly suspended the session without passing the budget on final reading.

“Wala na po siyang pakialam kung ano ang gagawin ng mga mambabatas matapos maipasa ang 2021 budget. To each his own po ‘yan,” Roque said at a news conference on Monday.

“Wala pong pinapanigan. May the best man win for the speakership.”

The President earlier called Congress to a special session from October 13 to 16 to ensure the speedy passage of the 2021 budget, which contains funds for COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Duterte also certified the budget bill as urgent to expedite its passage.

As of posting time, House members allied with Velasco are gathering at the Batasang Pambansa reportedly to hold a plenary session at any moment. KBK, GMA News