Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has strengthened his grip on the top post of the House of Representatives as some supporters of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, with whom he has a term-sharing agreement, have jumped ship and signed a manifesto asking Cayetano to stay.
Cayetano, who is supposed to step down in October under the term-sharing agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte, and Velasco who is supposed to succeed him, were scheduled to meet with the President Tuesday evening.
A key supporter of Cayetano, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said Velasco lost the speakership because of his failure to prove to his peers his capability to lead as speaker of the House.
"Despite the announcement of the term sharing deal, he (Velasco) should not have assumed the support of the majority, he still had to earn it, which unfortunately he did not. He lost by default because of his own fault and actions," Villafuerte said.
Velasco has yet to comment on Villafuerte's remarks but he renewed his appeal to his colleagues to uphold the term-sharing agreement between him and Cayetano, “for God and our country.”
In a Facebook post on Monday, Velasco said the gentleman's agreement was based on mutual trust and confidence, especially in light of the fact that it was brokered by the President.
“The covenant was crystal clear: a 15-21 term-sharing agreement. The first term expires on Sept 30, after which the second term immediately begins,” Velasco said.
“That was the pledge made before the President. As true leaders and as examples for our people, both sides are obligated to avoid situations or statements that would subvert the agreement and betray the trust of our people who’ve stood witness to the covenant,” he added.
Velasco said that as he has always intended to honor the deal, Cayetano’s camp should do the same.
In the same Facebook post, Velasco underscored the importance of trust and honor as they “reveal our true character and show what we, as leaders, are truly made of.”
“And it is in this period of difficulty that our people yearn for honorable leaders whom they can trust–– Leaders who are able to live up to their promises come hell or high water, Leaders with palabra de honor who lead not with lip service, but who back up their words with action,” Velasco said.
Over 200 congressmen, including the heads of various political parties in the House have reportedly signed the manifesto of support for Cayetano.
Deputy Speakers Aurelio Gonzales and Johnny Pimentel, PDP-Laban partymates of Velasco also signed the manifesto.
The manifesto partly reads: "This commitment to pass a pro-people budget for 2021 follows the vision of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, whose guidance of the House of the past 13 months has been invaluable in the passage of numerous landmark bills including the 2020 General Appropriations Act, which was passed in record time and without any pork, parked funds, or corruption.
“In these trying times, as the nation is being wracked by an unprecedented public health and economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic, we reiterate our continued full and unequivocal support for Speaker Cayetano and the entire leadership of the House, and join the President in his desire to allow the membership to chart its own course in choosing those who would lead this chamber."
Villafuerte slammed Velasco, saying he already lacked the gravitas, experience and skills compared to Cayetano. What’s worse, he continued, Velasco was an absentee congressman, he was always missing in action, and his peers called him lazy. "He did not perform as congressman, he did not perform as chairman of the energy committee which convinced the supermajority [of] his inability to lead the hamber," said Villafuerte, who also signed the manifesto.
"In most of the major issues surrounding the house, where was congressman Velasco? Where was he when we passed the anti-terror law? Where was he during the deliberations on the ABS-CBN franchise? Where was he during the Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan 2 when Congress worked double time and overtime to pass the said measures? Where was he on all major issues surrounding the House?" Villafuerte asked.
Villafuerte said he doubts Velasco would be able to lead the House effectively as "a speaker should have a strong voice… and a principled stand on major issues.”
"You cannot lead the house by being silent and tamad (lazy) and a spoiled brat that wants the speakership to be handed to him instead of working for it," Villafuerte said even as he accused Velasco of "pressuring Malacañang to order congressmen to make him speaker because congressmen don't believe he is competent."
Observers speculated that Cayetano agreed to the agreement because he planned to use the remaining 21 months of the 18th Congress to go around the country and strengthen his political base for a run for the presidency in 2020.
However, Cayetano's supporters at the House have been egging him to renege on the agreement reportedly for fear of losing the perks they now enjoy once Velasco assumes the position.
Deputy Speaker and Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez, meanwhile, revealed that the camps of Cayetano and Velasco will meet with the President Tuesday.
PDP-Laban Executive Director Ron Munsayac confirmed the meeting that is set to take place at 6 p.m.
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