Speaker Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday offered to step down as part of a term-sharing agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte, but predicted that his replacement, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, would be ousted in a week by a majority of lawmakers.
As if to make his point, House members voted 184-1 with nine abstentions to reject Cayetano’s offer to resign.
In a privilege speech, Cayetano offered his resignation a day after he and Velasco met with the President.
“I will not be a party to letting the President down so I am offering my resignation here and now to you my dear colleagues. My fate and the fate of the 2021 budget and the fate of the leadership of the House is in your hands,” Cayetano said.
“Please don’t vote on party lines. Don’t accept or deny because of positions or what the President may say or what I might think. Vote for me or not, you are my friends, my colleagues,” he added
Velasco was not seen at the plenary hall during Cayetano’s speech, and it was not immediately known if he was present online and if he participated in the vote to turn down the Speaker’s resignation.
As of press time, the Marinduque solon had yet to issue a statement in response to Cayetano’s speech.
Under the term-sharing deal, Cayetano would serve as speaker for the first 15 months while Velasco would serve for the remaining 21 months.
But his supporters want Cayetano to remain as speaker, saying a change in leadership would derail the passage of the 2020 national budget as well as legislative efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite his offer to resign, Cayetano kept attacking Velasco in his speech, saying that the congressman had rejected appeals from the President to agree to take over in December after the budget was enacted.
“The President repeatedly asked congressman Velasco to move the term sharing agreement to December so that Congress may be able to finish the budget. The President himself made the request,” Cayetano said.
“The President asked this not to give me a few months as a speaker but because it was for the good of the country. This was not for the sake of Alan but for the sake of the budget, but this appeal to congressman Velasco was rejected many, many times despite the reasonings given,” he added.
The House is expected to pass the budget bill on final reading on Oct. 14 or two days before it adjourns on Oct. 16.
But Cayetano said Velasco refused and kept asking the President what date he would assume the post. Velasco even told the President that he should have taken over by Sept. 30 per his computation of the 15-21 agreement.
Cayetano said Velasco told the President he was ready to assume the speakership, even though he was absent in the deliberations on several crucial bills.
Earlier in his privilege speech, Cayetano said that Velasco might win if he steps down as speaker, but he might be ousted after a week.
“Under the Constitution, you need the majority of all members to be elected speaker. So I can step aside. But I can’t guarantee he will be elected,” he said.
“In fact, I will make a fearless forecast: he will not win. Or if I step aside, he might win but after a week, he might be replaced in a coup. Why? There are many [who are] more popular in Congress.”
Cayetano also said Velasco would turn the House into a rubber stamp of the executive, claiming he would pass the 2021 National Expenditure Program “as is.”
“The President is not asking us to be a rubber stamp. It is congressman Velasco who’s asking or was telling the President we will be a rubber stamp. Whatever is in the NEP, that is what we will approve,” Cayetano said.
“Never in the history of the Philippines has the NEP been passed as is because we have a Senate,” Cayetano added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate can work with any House speaker as long as they have the same perspective.
He said he would talk to Velasco about the priority measures of Congress.
Senator Christopher Go said they respect the internal processes of the House.
“What is far more important is for the entire Congress to continue deliberating on the legislative agenda and priorities of the Duterte administration, including the 2021 national budget and other priority measures,” he said.
Senator Leila De Lima likened the struggle over the House leadership to a mafia fight in which the two parties would go to their godfather to settle the row.
But she said Congress is not a mafia, and a puppet of the President should not be made speaker because the legislature is a separate branch of government.
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