Two members of the Makabayan Bloc on Thursday urged Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to abide by the term-sharing agreement with Rep. Lord Allan Velasco
of Marinduque, after expressing serious doubts about his intent to step down after 15 months in office.
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Party-list Representatives Arlene Brosas of Gabriela and France Castro of ACT Teachers said that the agreement will be a sham if Cayetano stays on and will not give way to Velasco as part of the agreement that was brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte shortly before the 18th Congress opened.
President Duterte earlier said Cayetano will serve as Speaker in the first 15 months, while Velasco will occupy the post in the remaining 21 months.
“It’s a gentleman’s agreement, I hope they will abide by it,” Brosas said.
Castro said the pronouncement of Cayetano that he will have to consult with the President is an indication that he will not step down after his 15-month term.
Nevertheless she said she personally believes that a continuity of leadership at the chamber is important to ensure the passage of measures that will benefit the Filipino people.
Brosas agreed, adding that the change of leadership at the House will not matter most to the bloc.
What matters to them, she said, is for the House to work on the passage of pro-poor measures.
Earlier, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, chairman of the House committee on natural resources, floated the idea of extending Cayetano’s term, citing his 64-percent approval rating in a recent Pulse Asia survey.
Barzaga said the ratings of Cayetano “are remarkable if we consider the low marks the House received in previous Congresses.”
“If Speaker Cayetano sustains his good performance as shown by his high trust and approval ratings in the latest Pulse Asia quarterly report, there would be a groundswell among House members and the public for him to stay on,” Barzaga said.
On Tuesday, Cayetano said Tuesday he will let Duterte decide if he stays in his post after his 15-month term under the agreement expires.
He said Duterte as the titular head of the supermajority will decide his fate.
But Cayetano assured Velasco that he has nothing to worry about and that what is important is for them to pass the President’s legislative agenda.
Observers said Cayetano may have agreed to a mere 15-month term to have time to prepare for a presidential run in 2022.
As Speaker, the observers said, Cayetano will be able to win supporters who will finance his presidential campaign. Thus the need for him to first be a speaker.
If Cayetano wins the presidency, he will post two firsts—the first politician to run for vice president and lose to become president and the first former Speaker to be elected president.
Under the term sharing agreement, Duterte said Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, who was a top contender, would serve as majority leader for both, thus keeping the post for the duration of the 18th Congress.
But the Palace said Thursday the President would not meddle in House affairs.
“In the first place, the agreement was among themselves. Malacañang has nothing to do with that. He only proposed it because his suggestion was sought,” Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“And remember what the President said, ‘The ultimate approval is yours, not mine,’” Panelo added.
Cayetano on Wednesday said a reenacted budget will not happen under his watch.
He said he sees no reason for the government not to have a national budget for 2020.
“The 2020 budget is top priority in the agenda when session resumes on Nov. 4. We won’t have any excuse, we have all the time to discuss the budget. We had one month during the break to review the budget and prepare for the [bicameral conference committee meetings],” Cayetano said in a press briefing Wednesday at the New Clark City Sports Hub in Pampanga.
Cayetano said that there is continued interaction between senators and Cabinet secretaries on the money measure.
He also emphasized the need for an unconditional cash program for the poorest of the poor.
“The conditional cash transfer is working but for the poorest of the poor we need the unconditional cash transfer program,” Cayetano said.
He also said the House will come up with a program to implement 20 projects for the poorest 20 provinces.
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