The hours leading to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s requested meeting today with Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte was quickly broken by the presidential son’s jig away from the squabble over the uneven budget distribution at the Batasang Pambansa.
Several lawmakers claimed Cayetano has sent an SOS to the young Duterte as his seat is now threatened with barely two months left in his 15-months of the term-sharing deal for the speakership brokered by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.
A meeting with the Davao City lawmaker, one congressman said, could save Cayetano from ouster if the planned call to declare all House seats vacant today transpires.
The young Duterte, however, opted to distance himself from the burning issue.
“As much as I am part of Congress with a duty to be involved in the goings on inside, I cannot discount the fact that I am a Duterte,” he said. “Anything that comes out of my actions or mouth could be construed or manipulated as having the blessing of my father. And so I would rather suffer or work in silence rather than sacrifice the supposed independence of the House from the Palace.”
That said, another Daily Tribune source stated, makes Cayetano’s hold on the speakership untenable despite the deal which he now reportedly wants to unilaterally scrap.
That “gentlemen’s agreement” was for Cayetano to lead the House of Representatives for 15 months — which his camp said would end in October — before Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco takes his turn at the House leadership for 21 months until 2022. The third party to that deal, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, agreed to sit as House Majority Leader for one full term.
Not so gentlemanly
Cayetano’s peers, however, are saying the Speaker is reneging on that deal. Last week, Cayetano had asked the President’s position on the deal but received a vague answer.
A day after, leading house members questioned the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) over its distribution of projects in the billions of pesos to the districts of the City of Taguig and Camarines Sur.
Taguig City is divided into two districts, one of which is represented by Cayetano while the other has his wife, Lani, as representative. They used separate addresses and voted in separate precincts when they ran, despite being husband and wife.
Camarines Sur’s District 2 is represented by Cayetano ally Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte.
District 1 has Cayetano, himself, as its “caretaker congressman” following the death of Marissa Lourdes M. Andaya on 5 July this year due to cancer.
The Cayetanos’ and Villafuerte’s districts received more than P20-billion worth of projects from the DPWH, whose secretary Mark Villar (son of Manny and Senator Cynthia), is a Nacionalista partymate of Cayetano and Villafuerte.
This sent a good number of congressmen grumbling about what they called was an “unfair treatment” from Cayetano. Many of them receive less than P2 billion in infrastructure funds yearly.
These congressmen said they are supporting calls to declare all house seats vacant. It could be raised today, they said.
The young Duterte had earlier expressed his frustration on the uneven budget distribution, a fact he admitted in his statement.
In his message to his allies, Duterte said he was never consulted by Cayetano on the budget distribution and opted to stay away from the wrangling bunch.
The young Duterte added: “I will ask the Mindanao bloc to declare the seat of the speaker and deputy speakers vacant on Monday. The Mindanao congressmen will not perish if they will not be given a share of the budget. I am also encouraging the minority.”
“Most of these concerns shrouded doubts over the process and mistrust of the lawmakers ruling the House, those who are acting as if they are bigger than their colleagues,” he stated.
“Now as Congress continues to be hounded by the issue of budget — something that finds its way up to the current House leadership, how it treats its members, how it approves allocations and budgets with fairness or lack of it — let me reiterate my position: I do not want to get involved. However, I wish to help my fellow lawmakers find answers to their questions or remedies to the budget that they proposed for their people.”
Spare chamber’s credibility
“I could only hope that Congress and its members will be able to resolve this issue before everything goes out of hand, before it could bludgeon the credibility of the institutions and inflict damage beyond repair,” he explained.
“I leave this issue to the members of Congress as I believe that it is within their rights as elected officials to come up with a favorable solution to an issue that could badly impact the development of their districts and their people.”
“As a collective body, the members of Congress have the power to change the course of which the leadership is leading them to and address a problem to ensure that the programs and projects for their people are delivered and delivered expeditiously.”
“The members of Congress have the power to correct everything that they perceive as wrong happening within the Lower House or change leadership as they demand fair treatment and reforms.”
“If the members of Congress will push for a change in House leadership, as a reaction to their sentiments, obviously I would be among the casualties because I am a deputy speaker. I am ready to accept the consequences,” he closed.
with HANANEEL BORDEY
and MICHELLE GUILLANG