President Rodrigo Duterte’s endorsement of a term-sharing between Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco for the House speakership remains on shaky ground as the Chief Executive on Tuesday that he is still leaving their fates at the hands of their Congress peers.
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Duterte spoke to end the wrangling for the House’s top post and announced Cayetano to take his turn first as Speaker of the House of Representatives before Velasco can take his.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo then disclosed an agreement among the speakership hopefuls — Cayetano, Velasco and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez — to honor the words of the President after seeking the leader’s advice on their respective bids.
Panelo said the President will adopt Cayetano’s proposal to lead Congress for 15 months, after which he will turn over his seat to Velasco who will serve as speaker for 21 months or until the end of Mr. Duterte’s term.
But the President clarified that it will still be up to the members of the House to elect their next leader.
Mr. Duterte stressed that it was still the privilege of the House of Representatives to vote on its next Speaker, adding that as much as he wanted to distance himself from having to select whom to endorse, he decided it was time for him to speak out since there was no clear concession yet.
“That is their privilege actually. I was just trying to end up the impasse. Nobody was sure to vote for whom and they kept on asking, who’s the President’s candidate?” Duterte said.
“I shied away and said if you can resolve the matter comfortably between you, do it. I hate to intrude. But apparently, considering what happened in the last few days, and the next session is about to begin, my statement would really be, ‘It’s time for me to talk,’” he added.
The suddenly powerful 54-man Partylist Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI) also said it had accepted President Duterte’s endorsement of the term-sharing deal, but left a caveat that still left the issue of speakership hanging.
“Today, we have approved as a party-list coalition that we will respect and adhere to the President’s wishes. We will comply with the requirements of Reps. Cayetano and Velasco to submit our wish list,” the PCFI members said.
“For today, we will go with Alan Peter Cayetano. For now,” they reiterated.
The President also revealed that his reason for choosing Cayetano was that the Taguig Representative had already expressed his desire to become the next speaker should he win in the 2019 midterm polls.
Alan wanted it first
“I have been very clear on that during the campaign, he said that if he wins, he wants to be Speaker,” Duterte said. “He was the first one at least to intimate to me that — he expressed his desire.”
The President also disclosed that aside from Cayetano, Velasco and Romualdez also approached him with the same concern.
“Then Lord, that was during the campaign. After the campaign, Martin Romualdez entered, also a supporter of mine,” Duterte said. “So, I promised him. Then Lord (Velasco), I said, ‘Let us see.’ To Romualdez, I said, ‘Let us see what develops,’” Duterte said.
“When it’s like this, it’s time for me to talk. I will insist whatever it is we talked about, that’s what we follow,” Duterte added, pointing out that the term-sharing agreement was what was “agreed upon” to do away with conflict.
The President also defended his decision to make his move in the house speakership race, noting that it should not be described as “interference” because it did not involve meddling in the legislative process.
“It has nothing to do with the independence of the legislative body. Up to that point, it’s all politics. But interfering in the legislation and in the workings of the Lower House, that’s another story,” Duterte said.
“You are not interfering because we are choosing only the leaders. Now, when they begin to work and do their task, and you interfere, that’s the time that there is – we can hear the complaints,” he added.
Following the President’s endorsement, Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday expressed his willingness to work with Cayetano should he become the House Speaker in the 18th Congress.
In a statement, Sotto said that the Senate is absolutely expecting a good relationship with the House with Cayetano as speaker, noting that the Taguig Representative had served the Senate and knew most of the senators on a personal level.
“He knows us. We know him. And I do not mean that literally only,” Sotto said.
With Hananeel Bordey