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Status quo for majority leader, other House positions

The majority leader of the House of Representatives, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, will stay in his post up to end of the 18th Congress, an ally of the Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, the speaker in waiting, said Wednesday.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Velasco have agreed that the committee chairmanships as well as other leadership posts in the chamber would be maintained, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, a supporter of Velasco, told a television interview.

Leachon made the statement hours after Cayetano and Velasco met with President Rodrigo Duterte and agreed to adhere to the gentlemen’s agreement they forged just before the start of the 18 Congress in July 2019.

“I think they both agreed also that there will be more or less no changes in the House leadership and that includes the committee chairmanships,” Leachon said.

Velasco is supposed to assume the House’s top position on October 14.

Romualdez will also finish his whole term as majority leader, Leachon said.

What is problematic, however, is the presence of close to 50 deputy speakers and about the same number of assistant majority leaders.

Before Cayetano became speaker, there used to be be only three deputy speakers representing the country’s three main island groups and one or two assistant majority leaders.

But as far as Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, the speakership issue is far from over, saying Velasco still cannot claim victory unless the majority of House members move to declare the position of speaker vacant and elect a new one as provided by House rules.

Villafuerte, a staunch Cayetano supporter, also disputed Leachon’s statement saying that Velasco was already saying that he would replace ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Yap as chairman of the House committee on appropriations.

Villafuerte claimed Velasco is eyeing Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab as Yap’s replacement. Ungab held the post in a previous Congress.

Villafuerte also said that Velasco would also change the chairmen of the legislative franchises as well as the good government and public accountability committees. Reps. Franz Alvarez of Palawan and Jonathan Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan sit as chairmen of the two committees, respectively.

“I am very sure that he will change chairmanships because he has made promises to his supporters,” Villafuerte added.

This developed as Leachon also pooh-poohed the claim of Villafuerte that there was no agreement on the date of leadership change.

He also claimed that Cayetano tried appeal to the President to allow him to finish his term until after his birthday on Oct. 28 but Velasco objected even as he also lamented that Cayeteno’s allies were atacking him in front of the President.

“It’s true that those on Cayetano’s side launched personal attacks versus Velasco in the meeting with President Duterte last night; Velasco was openly insulted,” Leachon said as the President prevailed upon Cayetano’s allies to honor the term-sharing agreement.

“That’s enough. All of you were given the chance to speak,” he quoted the President as saying.

Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list group said the camp of Cayetano should abide by the term-sharing agreement.

Atienza also took a dig at Villafuerte and Cayetano for making it appear that Velasco did not honor the term-sharing agreement.

“What Villafuerte says were part of a script. They want Velasco to appear as a coup plotter. Why would he stage a coup against Cayetano when there’s a term-sharing agreement?” Atienza said.

Atienza said the leadership change would still go through the election process while certain committee chairmanships would be retained.

Meanwhile, a party-list legislator who belongs to a family that is known to be close to President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday expressed elation at impending assumption to the speakership of Velasco.

“Our word must be our bond, our real political capital,” said Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo of ACT-CIS party-list group. “That word of honor, upheld in the past 15 months, would also lift the House and its members in the coming 21 months, when more daunting challenges lie ahead.”

Referring to the move of the supporters of Cayetano to make him renege on the agreement brokered by Duterte, Tulfo said: “The most recent developments remind us that our word of honor is our most valued political capital invested in the Filipino people today and in the future.”

She complimented Cayetano for a successful 15 months at the helm.

Topics: House of Representatives , Martin Romualdez , Lord Allan Velasco , speakership
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