The term-sharing deal in the House of Representatives will push through as Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco will succeed Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano as Speaker by October 14, following their meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday.
A source in the Velasco camp, who requested anonymity, told the Standard that Duterte advised Cayetano, his running mate in the 2016 national elections, to wrap up his duties as Speaker in two weeks.
Several online news outlets also broke the story, quoting lawmakers in the Velasco camp, after the 6 p.m. conference with the President at Malacanang.
“We will let Speaker Cayetano make the announcement,” said Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, Duterte’s longtime aide who also sat in on the meeting.
Cayetano's camp did not return calls for comment as of presstime.
Asked for an official statement from the Office of the President, spokesperson Harry Roque said: “I cannot comment until I talk to the President.”
“Tapos na po ang laban (the fight’s over). #1521,” added Ron Munsayac, executive director and public information officer of Velasco’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), on Twitter, using a boxing glove emoji.
Munsayac was referring to the length of the term-sharing deal, as in July 2019, Duterte brokered the pact between the lawmakers where it was agreed that Cayetano will serve for the first 15 months and Velasco would take over as Speaker in the next 21 months of their three years in Congress.
According to reports, Velasco and Cayetano were joined by eight lawmakers each in the meeting.
Velasco was accompanied by Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson; 1-PACMAN party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin, Bacolod City Rep. Caraps Paduano, Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit, and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon.
Cayetano came with his wife Lani, also a Taguig City representative, with Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speakers LRay Villafuerte and Rodante Marcoleta, Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino, Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, and Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado.
The son of retired Supreme Court Associate Justice and now Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco, Lord Allan served as provincial administrator before becoming a lawmaker. His mother and sister also were legislators in previous congresses.
Velasco has close ties to San Miguel Corporation CEO Ramon Ang, who served as a godfather in the baptism of the lawmaker’s youngest daughter.
THE ruling PDP-Laban on Tuesday earlier said it hoped Speaker Cayetano would abide by his term-sharing agreement with Velasco, issuing the statement ahead of Cayetano and Velasco’s meeting with the President Tuesday night.
The PDP-Laban said it expected the final word from the President on who would be the next speaker as Cayetano reaches the end of his 15-month period by Sept. 30 and as Velasco’s term was supposed to begin.
But allies of Cayetano, who belongs to the Nacionalista Party, have been pressing for him to stay on, despite the agreement.
The PDP-Laban, on the other hand, said Velasco becoming speaker would be “a realization of the party’s major accomplishment” of heading the lower chamber of the legislative department while its honorary chairman, the President, heads up the executive branch.
Cayetano ally and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur maintained his attack on Velasco, saying he squandered the opportunity to work with the leadership of Cayetano and saying he accomplished little in the 18th Congress.
“He’s an absentee congressman. He didn’t perform well. His peers call him lazy,” Villafuerte said in a statement.
Velasco has taken to social media to accuse Cayetano of breaking his word, but Villafuerte belied this and said Cayetano himself honored the agreement at the onset when he tapped Velasco as his senior deputy speaker.
Villafuerte said this meant Velasco would be the “speaker-in-waiting, the presumptive speaker.”
Velasco, however, refused the offer and said he would rather chair of the House energy committee.
“Look at his legislative work track record as a congressman and as chairman of the energy committee,” Villafuerte said. “He assumed, just by the endorsement (of the President), he can just be speaker. He didn’t even try to earn the respect of his peers.”
Villafuerte also dismissed Velasco’s claim of being a “man of honor,” saying Velasco never followed the agreement for the past 15 months.
“We should have worked together for 15 months. But he did not. He (Velasco) attempted, at least twice, to oust Cayetano,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte was apparently referring to Cayetano’s revelation last February that Velasco had been promising chairmanships and budget allocations to members of the House in an attempt to grab the speakership ahead of time.
Cayetano earlier accused Velasco of being behind a move to replace him in the middle of the budget hearings this month.
Villafuerte on Tuesday played down any talk of a revamp in leadership positions at the House of Representatives amid the speakership row.
Villafuerte said the chamber was focused on the 2021 budget deliberations.
Over the weekend, over 200 congressmen, including the heads of various political parties as well as lawmakers from the minority bloc in the House reportedly signed a manifesto of support for Cayetano.
Villafuerte, one of the signatories to the “Let Cayeyano Stay” manifesto, said the changes would depend on consultation and consensus with the House leadership.
Both Cayetano and Velasco were expected to have their trusted lieutenants with them in their meeting with the President Tuesday night.
In a statement, PDP-Laban executive director Ron Munsayac said Velasco will be with his "most trusted team,” including Deputy Speakers Mikee Romero and Johnny Pimentel, Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan from the Northern Alliance, and AAMBIS-OWA party-list Rep. Sharon Garin of the Party-list Coalition.
Also on Velasco’s side are Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano from the Visayan Bloc, Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga and Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit from the Nationalist
People's Coalition, and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon from PDP-Laban.
Cayetano is expected to have Majority Leader Martin Romualdez and Villafuerte with him.
Earlier, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said the President should tell Cayetano and Velasco to honor the term-sharing agreement.
"The President was the witness in forging that agreement. He was the third man, and he is the best man now to tell both parties: 'You better follow your commitment. You gave your word of honor,” Atienza said.
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