Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday increased the number of his allies in the House of Representatives as the Nacionalista Party expressed support for the new Speaker.
The political party financed by former Senate President Manuel Villar has given its “unequivocal support” to Velasco, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said, adding all members of the NP have signed a manifesto of support to Velasco, including former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who had to be ousted by Velasco to enforce their term sharing “gentlemen’s agreement.”
Brabers said: “This proves (that there is unequivocal support in the) leadership in the House of representatives.”
This developed as the 44-strong NP in the lower chamber reiterated their continued commitment to rally behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s legislative agenda, including his anti-corruption campaign.
Deputy Majority Leader and Las Piñas City Rep. Camille Villar, a stalwart of NP, cited the need for a united House of Representatives under the leadership of Velasco to effectively implement Duterte’s programs to restart the shuttered economy and fight coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).
“Amid the recent development in the House of Representatives, the Nacionalista Party remains steadfast in supporting the legislative agenda of the President as his government endeavors to bring solution to the problems of the country, especially now that we are in the middle of the pandemic,” Villar said.
“The party nevertheless extends its collaborative hand to the new House leadership and vows to work closely with their team to ensure the success of the President’s legislative and economic agenda,” the lady House leader said.
In related developments, a member of the 25-man minority bloc in the House announced his intention to join the majority bloc.
Magsasaka party-list Rep. Argel Cabatbat said he was “seriously considering” joining the majority bloc.
“I’m looking for the best opportunity to forward our cause for the farmers. Recently, I am seeing an opportunity with the majority but the situation keeps changing every day,” he added.
Meanwhile, Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. said former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano -- who has become a staunch critic of Velasco -- was welcome to join them in the minority.
“Of course, we welcome him on that and to me, if he is willing to get the minority leader position, I would be very glad to give that to him,” he said.
Villar said, with a robust leadership backed by a pro-active Cabinet, “we believe that the country is in a better position to rise from the challenges of this pandemic and ultimately, facilitate the delivery of the cure against COVID 19.”
Villar also committed to co-author the proposed law seeking to grant anti-red tape powers to President Duterte to streamline the issuance of licenses and permits during national emergencies as one of ways to fight corruption in the government.
“We join President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his unrelenting campaign to weed out corruption in government, which is stealing precious resources that should have gone directly to the people,” said Villar.
In the manifesto, Barbers said the NP members in the House vowed to support the Velasco leadership.
Barbers, chairman of the House dangerous drugs committee, said “casualties” brought by the change of leadership were still expected since Velasco had the prerogative to choose the members of his team.
But he hopes no further changes will be made, especially for those who belong to their party.