SPEAKER Alan Peter S. Cayetano raised the prospect of the 2021 budget possibly being held hostage by an alleged power struggle in the House, threatening a repeat of the delayed 2019 budget which dampened spending and economic growth last year.

Ano bang mangyayari sa October? ‘Yung national budget, that’s why ‘yung sinabi ko nga sa kanila, magpalitan tayo, pero ‘wag niyo i-involve ‘yung budget dahil taboo ‘yan e (What will happen in October? We will be preparing the national budget. That is why I told them I am open to a change of leadership, as long as the budget is not affected, because that would be taboo),” he told reporters Monday, in an exchange that was live-streamed on Facebook.

May usapan na tayo na ‘yung national budget will be prepared by the Executive, will be fully backed up by the documentation and prioritization, and Congress will just make corrections ‘pag nakikita natin may gap. Pero hindi dapat gamitin ang budget as a spoils system or ibalik na nakatago ang pork barrel system na pinapangako ng kabila sa ibang mga kongresista (There is an agreement that the national budget will be prepared by the Execuribe, fully backed up by documentation and prioritization, and Congress will make corrections as necessary. But the budget should not be used as a spoils system or to revert to the old pork barrel system that the other side is promising legislators),” he added.

Mr. Cayetano said that he has “no problem” should Congress decide it wants a “new leader this early.”

“Now, if the majority of Congress agrees with them and wants a new leader this early, wala rin problema kasi ganyan ang nature ng ating democracy (I have no problem because that’s the nature of democracy). But sa aking personal analysis, ‘yung mga reforms na ginagawa natin ay suportado ng great majority ng mga kongresista (My analysis is that the government’s reforms are supported by the great majority of Congressmen),” he said.

Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny T. Pimentel, who is also the spokesperson for PDP-Laban, said that the party has scheduled a meeting with Mr. Cayetano on the alleged plot to remove him.

He added that the political party has “no knowledge” of the plot and said that the group will not participate in any plan to remove Mr. Cayetano.

“As far as PDP-Laban is concerned, we have no knowledge of any plan to oust Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. And if ever there is a plan, PDP-Laban will not be involved or participate in any plan to oust Speaker Cayetano. PDP-Laban remains committed to support the leadership of Speaker Cayetano,” he told reporters on Monday.

PDP-Laban is President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s party.

Representative Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda of Albay said that the House leadership struggle is “an unnecessary distraction.”

“Unnecessary distraction that we can do without. Because we are right in the middle of almost all bills having their own momentum and suddenly we will be disrupted,” he told reporters Monday.

On Thursday, Mr. Cayetano said he received verified information about an attempt to remove him.

He added that about 20 legislators have been offered committee chairmanships in exchange for their vote to remove the Speaker. — Genshen L. Espedido