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‘Coup’ pals in House drama

Keith A. Calayag

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Cayetano, plotting against himself. Noel CELIS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Barely minutes after Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza disclosed Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s plan to declare all seats in the House of Representatives vacant, two leaders allied with speaker-in-waiting Lord Allan Velasco have lost their seats in what is now seen as an imminent leadership coup.

But the coup is being orchestrated by Cayetano against himself, Atienza said, calling it “a drama” to force an election designed for Cayetano’s victory and would sideline the 15-21 deal he had forged with Velasco with President Rodrigo Duterte’s blessing.

“Speaker Cayetano is orchestrating a drama,” Atienza said. “He will be calling for the positions to be declared vacant, because he wants elections to be held and not honor an agreement he had entered into with Congressman Velasco.

“If he follows the agreement, he will have to step down (in October). That’s why he is pushing for an election,” he added.

But there is no coup, Atienza insisted. He reiterated that the reports about an alleged move by Velasco to consolidate his forces were only made up by Cayetano to discredit the Marinduque congressman.

Cayetano represents Taguig City.

“It’s entirely his invention, that report,” Atienza said. (He did it) maybe to entertain the people.”

“We do not need this kind of talk in Congress. I know Rep. Velasco very well. He is a gentleman. He will not waste his time staging a coup,” Atienza reiterated.

While some of his allies defended Cayetano, they also moved to replace two of his allies from their committee leadership.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, an ally of the President, was removed as chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations. He was replaced by ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap.

Also removed as chairman of the House Committee on Electoral Tribunal was Doy Leachon, a partymate of the President in the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), who was replaced by Kabayan Rep. Ron Saulo.

Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos succeeded Yap as chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements.

Leachon parted ways with Cayetano’s group by accusing his leadership of inserting P6 billion in pork barrel in the 2020 national budget.

“This could be the P1-billion reason why Rep. Ungab was removed from the Appropriations committee,” Leachon said.

Velasco had long dissociated himself from Cayetano’s claim of a coup plot against him, saying he is a “man of (his) word” and will follow the agreements they have forged with President Duterte.

The agreement calls for Cayetano to serve the first 15 months of their term while the remaining 21 months will be for Velasco. The third speakership hopeful, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, will serve his full term as Majority Leader.

Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel of PDP also said there is no plan to unseat Cayetano.

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