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‘Speakership row ends with quit-bid rejection’

Palace exec: They have already selected a leader; budget OK next

As far as Malacañang is concerned, the speakership row at the House of Representatives is “over” for now and lawmakers should focus on the passage of the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.

“The controversy is already over and the President has repeatedly appealed for Congress to pass the COVID-19 budget on time,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing Thursday.

“They have already selected a leader,” Roque told Manila Standard in a separate phone interview, referring to the decision of the majority of the congressmen to reject the resignation offer of Speaker Alan Cayetano Wednesday.

Asked if the President was no longer keen on seeing the term-sharing agreement implemented or whether the status quo will hold only until the budget is passed, Roque said Duterte gave no such parameters.

Hours after the vote, Cayetano, his wife, Taguig City Rep. Lani, and his sister, Senator Pia, trooped to Malacañang to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte. They were joined by Deputy Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva and Senator Christopher Go.

“While Bro. Eddie’s purpose was to pray over our President, the President repeated that the leadership issue at the House of Representatives is matter internal to them,” Roque said.

Under a term-sharing agreement brokered by Duterte, Cayetano was to serve 15 months as speaker while Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco would finish the term with 21 months. As the October turnover date approached, however, Cayetano’s allies lobbied heavily to have him remain as speaker and attacked Velasco on several fronts.

Velasco on Thursday fired back at Cayetano, saying his “political maneuverings and theatrics” threatened to derail the passage of the budget measure.

Velasco said Oct. 14 was the date that was agreed upon for the speakership turnover because of Cayetano’s commitment to pass the budget on that day.

To settle the row, Cayetano and Velasco and their respective allies met with the President Tuesday night, after which it was announced that Velasco would take over as speaker.

Akbayan chairperson Etta Rosales on Thursday said the speakership position was “disgusting to the core.”

“The House of Representatives’ squabble over the speakership position is disgusting to the core. It is the lowest of the low. Amid a pandemic that caused widespread hunger, unemployment and death, the House members’ bitter quarrel over pork barrel allotments and leadership positions is bordering on the criminal,” she said.

She said President Rodrigo Duterte’s lack of moral suasion over his super majority in Congress is also appalling.

“There is nothing good and honorable about this spectacle. It is simply a power struggle between one camp against the other involving nothing of principle and of benefit to the people,” Rosales said.

Sources privy to the meeting with the President said both Cayetano and Velasco used their birthdays to set the date for a possible turnover. Cayetano insisted on staying until the end of October, saying “I want to still be the speaker when I celebrate my 50th birthday on Oct. 28.”

Velasco reportedly countered that he wanted to be speaker when he celebrates his 43rd birthday on Nov. 9.

In a Facebook post, Velasco addressed the speaker.

“To Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, it was only last night (Tuesday night) when you promised to resign on Oct. 14 when the President ordered you to honor the term-sharing agreement,” Velasco said.

“Moreover, the President entrusted you with the task of announcing the date of the turnover. Oct. 14 was chosen as the date for the turnover because we committed to pass the budget before Oct. 14 and do nothing else that would disrupt or derail the process,” added Velasco.

The budget deliberations in the plenary session were suspended until Oct. 2 after Cayetano delivered his unscheduled resignation speech.

Velasco said he was saddened that the budget process was disrupted because of Cayetano’s premature offer to quit his post.

“Instead of focusing on the work at hand, further political maneuverings and theatrics took the budget deliberations hostage. We lost an entire day, and even tomorrow where you have declared that no session will be conducted, which are crucial in meeting our timeline,” Velasco said in his post.

“These attacks and distractions serve no purpose other than to perpetuate what is a purely personal agenda threatening to delay the passage of the budget. This is the truth,” he added.

He also called on his colleagues to continue our work and pass the budget on or before Oct. 14.

“This is the commitment we’ve made before the President, and this is our responsibility to our constituents, to deliver to them a fair and equitable budget,” he said.

Velasco vowed to continue pushing for the legislative agenda of the President and build consensus among the members.

“I assure my peers that we will be a gracious leader who would listen and be responsive to your concerns,” said Velasco. “But I make an earnest plea: Let us uphold the dignity of the House of Representatives by being men and women who believe in palabra de honor in keeping our word and upholding the term-sharing agreement Speaker Cayetano and I swore to honor and respect,” he added.

Also on Thursday, Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles accused Cayetano of abusing his privilege to speak before the House of Representatives when he offered to resign on Wednesday.

“There is nothing in our rules that you can offer a resignation. Under our rules, you may resign, and the deputy speakers will decide among themselves who gets to be the acting speaker until all members of the House are present to elect the new speaker,” Nograles said in an ANC interview.

Nograles said Cayetano wasted legislative time when legislators should have focused on the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.

Cayetano’s allies, on the other hand, blamed “overeagerness” on the part of Velasco’s handlers for the leadership row.

A senior member of the House said the apparent “overeagerness” of Velasco and his media handlers to assume the post prompted Cayetano’s “tantrums.”

“They should have known that the Speaker (Cayetano) has an attitude that when he is piqued he goes coverboard, just like what he did yesterday,” the congressman who requested anonymity said.

In his speech, Cayetano attacked Velasco and predicted that he would be ousted within a week of assuming the speakership.

Akbayan chairperson Etta Rosales on Thursday said the speakership position was “disgusting to the core.”

“The House of Representatives’ squabble over the speakership position is disgusting to the core. It is the lowest of the low. Amid a pandemic that caused widespread hunger, unemployment and death, the House members’ bitter quarrel over pork barrel allotments and leadership positions is bordering on the criminal,” she said.

She said President Rodrigo Duterte’s lack of moral suasion over his super majority in Congress is also appalling.

“There is nothing good and honorable about this spectacle. It is simply a power struggle between one camp against the other involving nothing of principle and of benefit to the people,” Rosales said.

Topics: House of Representatives , Rodrigo Duterte , COVID-19 , Alan Cayetano , Lord Allan Velasco , Speakership
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