Battle for speaker’s post rages

©PhilSTAR Daily, Inc

MANILA, Philippines — Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco might still pursue the speakership post on Oct. 14 despite the move by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies last Tuesday to suspend session until Nov. 16.

Cayetano dared Velasco to show his numbers in the House.

Velasco’s allies claimed yesterday that more congressmen have started to express support for a change in the House leadership under the term-sharing agreement brokered by President Duterte himself.

Cayetano’s allies reiterated that they were not bound by the term-sharing arrangement.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza and AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin hinted that the speakership battle is not over yet despite the Cayetano camp’s move to prevent a session on Oct. 14, the date agreed upon for Velasco’s takeover.“Velasco can still go for the speakership.

The majority of House members can still choose to meet and assert the power of the majority,” Atienza said in an interview with ANC.“Cayetano no longer has the support of his peers; it’s time to go,” he stressed.

Cayetano, for his part, challenged Velasco to show his hand and prove that he has the numbers to claim the speakership.“Kung may numero ka, ipakita mo sa akin. Kung wala kang numero, tumulong ka sa budget (If you have the numbers, then show it to me.

Otherwise, just help in the budget),” Cayetano said in a Facebook Live post yesterday evening.“Here in the House of Representatives, you need majority. We’re in the middle of crisis, so you better report for work. You’re welcome here,” Cayetano told Velasco. Cayetano also dismissed the warning of Sen. Panfilo Lacson that the 2021 budget would not be passed this year due to the one-month suspension of session in the House.

“There will be just a one-day delay in submission of budget to the Senate, instead of Nov. 16 it will be submitted on Nov. 17,” he explained, arguing that the Senate still has enough time to pass the budget. Atienza said that the House plenary only suspended session and did not adjourn, which means it could resume anytime upon the initiative of a good majority of members.

He believed that the suspension was “illegal” and many of their colleagues were dismayed by Cayetano’s action.“The nation will have to take a very serious look at Cayetano’s character.

He is a man who quotes the Bible and tells lies. Unless Cayetano changes his attitude, he has nowhere to go in politics,” Atienza said, adding that the chamber is “better off with a gentleman like Velasco and not a hooligan like Cayetano.”Garin said Cayetano’s recent action of “abandoning word of honor and tradition” only led to more support for Velasco. “I’ve been disappointed by the Speaker’s actions lately. Cayetano’s recent speeches have been unparliamentary,” she admitted.

Garin also challenged Cayetano on why he would resort to such tactic “if you’re confident in your numbers.”As far as allies of Cayetano are concerned, the leadership of the House did not violate any rule in suspending session until Nov. 16, insisting the House leader has a “fresh mandate” that does away with any term-sharing agreement. “Let’s call a spade a spade.

The Speaker has a fresh mandate, and that was shown by the previous 184-1 vote. And there is no more term-sharing agreement,” Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales II told reporters at a briefing for reporters via Zoom.

Gonzales also pointed out that should the Velasco camp decide and finally gather to take over the House, “it will be an illegal session.” “Because insofar as the House is concerned, the sessions have been suspended until Nov. 16.

I cannot think of any possible way on how they can do that,” the senior administration legislator explained, referring to possible moves installing Velasco as the next Speaker. Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte and Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor also defended the House leadership’s move to approve the spending bill on second reading and resume session next month.

“The talks leading to Oct. 14 are just pure psywar or hearsay. Kumbaga they’re just testing the reaction of their colleagues.

But at the end of the day, it will still boil down to a numbers game,” Villafuerte stressed. Defensor, chairman of the public accounts committee, lamented that the institution has been damaged due to the speakership squabble, expressing hope people would still appreciate that they did their job well. House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, for his part, welcomed the statement of Malacañang thanking the House for passing on second reading House Bill 7727 or the General Appropriations Bill. “We would like to assure the President, our colleagues in the Senate and the entire country that the decision of the House leadership and majority of the members to insulate the budget discussions from politics is in line with our desire to craft a responsive and relevant measure which would address the needs of the country in recovering from the effects of the pandemic,” the Leyte congressman said. Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay called on the camp of Cayetano to honor the term-sharing deal Duterte had brokered between the Speaker and Velasco.

“I have tried not to meddle in the intramurals of the majority coalition on the speakership row. But I cannot anymore remain silent because the unresolved acrimonious leadership issue is damaging both the institution and the public interest,” he said. May resume anytimeA House insider confirmed to The STAR that their session might resume anytime.“If Lord Allan is able to muster at least 152 members, then he gets control of the plenary and immediately set the resumption of session,” explained the source who requested anonymity due to fear of getting the ire of Cayetano.Velasco has alleged that Cayetano, in suspending session, has bastardized the House in a desperate attempt to stay in power and also committed serious violations of the Constitution to save himself.Although he was insistent that Malacañang does not want to meddle in the speakership row, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the latest circus among congressmen should not surprise anyone, since similar incidents happened in the past.Roque described the decision of the majority to pass the budget on second reading as a “very astute political move” by Cayetano.“It is not illegal, but I would think it’s a very astute political move because it avoided intramural that could have happened on Oct. 14,” Roque said.“For what it’s worth, you need to have the experience of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano because he has dealt with the same rules, not only for three terms as congressman – this is already his fourth term as congressman – but also as a two-termer senator,” the Palace official added.Cayetano’s move came after Velasco’s allies claimed that they have the backing of over 160 congressmen – good enough for a majority.

They cited the 65 members of the ruling PDP-Laban in the chamber headed by Velasco himself; 35 members of the National People’s Coalition and the 54-member strong party-list coalition led by 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero, who was ousted as deputy speaker after he supported Velasco.Also yesterday, three lawmakers questioned their removal from committee chairmanships by Cayetano’s allies during plenary session last Tuesday.Garin, Quezon Rep. Helen Tan and Valenzuela City Rep. Eric Martinez were all surprised by their removal, citing their performance in their respective committees.“I’m probably not lacking in my performance.

I worked on the CITIRA bill. When it came to decisions, if I trust the Speaker and it’s for the good of the country, I followed them,” lamented Garin, who was replaced as economic affairs committee chair by Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr.Tan, who was replaced by Guimaras Rep. Lucille Nava as health committee chair, wanted an explanation from Cayetano.“I want to hear it directly from the Speaker why was I removed. I don’t think I’m a bad committee chairman. I don’t think I’m a poor performer either. I never criticized the Speaker,” she said.Tan said that she was clueless about the manifestation stripping her of her post.Martinez admitted he was saddened by his removal as chair of the youth and sports development committee after working with Cayetano for the success of the country’s hosting of Southeast Asian Games last year.Martines was replaced by Manila Rep. Yul Servo. — Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez, Michelle Zoleta