Rep. Lito Atienza (BUHAY party-list) was opposing the second reading of the national budget at a plenary session of the lower house over Zoom, but could not speak.
Atienza said he was intentionally muted so he could not voice his objection.
During the House session on Tuesday, October 6, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano moved to terminate the interpellations of the budget, stated in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill, that amounts to P4.5 trillion and approve it on second reading.
This was earlier than the scheduled date to end the plenary debates, that is, on October 9. Final voting would have been conducted three days after.
This development also came at the height of the tension between Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, who was supposed to replace the former on October 14 based on a term-sharing agreement brokered by the president in 2019.
Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales II, also a close ally of Cayetano, defended the latter in his motion to take a break earlier than scheduled in the legislative calendar. Gonzales claimed that the speaker still complied with Section 55 of the House Rules, wherein:
“A motion to close the debate on a measure shall be in order after three speeches in favor and two against, or after only one speech in favor and none against.”
Gonzales said more members have already spoken in favor of the proposed budget than those against it after more than a week of deliberations.
Any new decision of the House that ran counter to an existing rule will only be considered amendments, therefore no violations were committed, Gonzales added.
“Plenary cannot be guilty of violating its own rules. When plenary decides something, that automatically becomes the rule. If it runs counter to an existing rule, the latter rule is deemed amended,” he said.
In a post on the same night on Facebook, Rep. Atienza accused Cayetano of violating House rules after he allegedly muted him and other lawmakers. They were apparently trying to object to the approval of GAB.
This proves beyond doubt that Speaker Cayetano is desperately hanging on. He has just publicly confirmed that he is…
Atienza also posted photos of the Zoom videoconference where he could be seen holding a piece of paper with the words “I object” during the hearing.
“He didn’t care about Constitutional integrity, throwing everything into the air and making Congress go on a long vacation. Ginulo niya lahat and he violated all the rules of the House,” he said.
“Many of us were objecting at the top of our voices but again, we were muted on Zoom and all our objections were thrown out the window,” he added.
Atienza further slammed Cayetano and called him a “poor loser.”
“This is typical of a poor loser. Pag natatalo ka na, guluhin mo na lang ang mesa, sunugin mo na lang ang bahay ika nga,” he said.
Gonzales denied this accusation and reasoned that some lawmakers were muted for “technical reasons.”
“Secretariat has to mute so that there will be no feedbacks. Secondly, if all are unmuted at the same time, imagine the noise that it will generate and will fully disrupt the proceedings,” he said.
Rep. Velasco likewise condemned Cayetano for the unexpected approval of GAB and accused the incumbent speaking of railroading the legislative process.
“The railroading is contrary to the Speaker’s commitment for a national spending package that is open, transparent and meaningful and beneficial for the Filipino people,” he said.
Velasco speculated that Cayetano motioned for it because he knew his “time is up.”
“He knows very well that he no longer enjoys the trust and confidence of House members. This caper is the last nail to his coffin. Speaker Cayetano, your time is up,” Velasco said.