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‘Honor 15-21 agreement’

Aldrin Cardona

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The “coup” at the House of Representatives was a dud with the allies of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano making the loudest noise charging Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of orchestrating an attempt at forging a leadership change at the Batasang Pambansa.

Their statements almost effectively hazed the questions earlier raised by several members of the House about Cayetano’s large chunk of budget from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 2021.

It was earlier reported that a coup de etat was to transpire at the House following frustrations by many House members over the budget inequity under Cayetano’s leadership.

Cayetano is supposed to hand over the House speakership to Velasco at end of October following their “gentlemen’s agreement” that was brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte himself last year.

The Chief Executive is hoping that the two House leaders will honor their agreement.

During a briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque quoted the President as saying that he “is hoping both parties will honor their words and abide by their agreement.”

“I asked him last night (Monday) and that was his answer,” Roque said.

That deal was dubbed as the “15-21 agreement” which should have Cayetano serving the first 15 months of their three-year term and Velasco taking his turn for 21 months until the elections next year.

It was Cayetano, however, who tried to stage a “self-coup” last year supposedly on the request of his peers to serve as speaker for the who three years. Cayetano’s camp says the Speaker has moist eyes on the presidency.

He is now reneging on that deal, though, with Velasco’s allies claim they will not allow.

Velasco was not part of the group that questioned Cayetano’s lion’s share from the DPWH budget. He stayed quiet on Tuesday despite the Cayetano camp’s taunts.

“He’s a gentleman who follows agreements,” one of his allies said. “He believes that one who backs down on vows to his peers could not be truthful to his vows to serve his country and people.”

Velasco issued a statement Tuesday night, saying “being a party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time.”

“When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse. Thereafter, at the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately to the Filipino people,” Velasco added.

This was after lawmakers complained against Cayetano’s supposed favor of his closest allies whom earlier reports said partook of about P20 billion-worth of DPWH projects.

The other members of the House receive just P2 billion in projects, some of them even less.

Cayetano will receive P9,762,773,000 for 121 projects ranging from repairs, widenings and expansion of roads, construction of buildings and rehabilitation of old structures.

He will be sharing the amount with his wife Lani, who represents the other half of Taguig City. They are the only husband and wife living together who represent separate districts of a city.

Cayetano’s budget was defended by Eric Yap, the ACT-CIS Partylist Representative.

“I saw the NEP (national expenditure program) for 2021. (His budget) is P8 billion. But P6 billion of that is for 2020,” Yap said during an exclusive Daily Tribune “Straight Talk” online program.

“But that budget was surrendered to become part of the COVID-19 fight. That’s why we reinstated the amount for 2021. So, it now turns out that only P2 billion is given to Speaker Cayetano,” he added.

For Camarines Sur, some are saying the province is receiving P11 billion. CamSur has five districts with five congressmen. So that’s P2.2 billion each,” Yap continued. “It’s the same amount that Cong. Arnulfo Teves (Negros Oriental) is going to receive.”

Documents obtained by Daily Tribune, however, showed shares divided among five Camarines Sur representatives are not equal.

Cayetano, himself, is the acting representative of the first district that was left vacant by Marissa Lourdes Andaya who died of cancer early this year. He is getting P288,244,000 for three projects in the district.

District 2 will be receiving the most with P3,304,781,000 for 33 projects. It is represented by LRay Villafuerte, a known Cayetano ally who spoke yesterday to claim that a “supermajority of the House” continue to support Cayetano.

District 3 Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. was to receive P1,127,591,000 for five projects but he reportedly returned it.

District 4 Rep. Arnulf Fuentebella has 12 projects worth only 817,960,000; while District 5 Rep. Jocelyn Fortuno has 21 projects but these were pegged only at a measly P595, 605,000.

Villafuerte, himself, sent messages to the other congressmen and promised them budget for their soft projects that include scholarships, medical assistance, livelihood training and similar light programs.

The distribution of these funds was instructed by Cayetano on Saturday while calls for his removal as House Speaker was simmering over the weekend.

“Your allocated LGSF (Local Government Subsidy Fund) for 2020 which were missing are back,” a message attributed to Villafuerte stated. “We reinstated them as per instruction of the Speaker in Bayanihan 2.”

Bayanihan 2 funds are intended for the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Here with guidelines please. Favor, kindly as you LGU (local government units) beneficiaries (through) Katy to comply ASAP because deadline is end of October,” Villafuerte’s message continued.

Cayetano came under attack over this inequity, leading to Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte to express his frustration and the Mindanao bloc threatening to declare all House leadership seats vacant last Monday.

It did not happen after Cayetano’s allies suspended Monday’s session.

The House went about its usual schedules on Tuesday despite Cayetano’s accusation that Velasco had tried to stage a “coup” four times in the past.

Velasco’s allies branded Cayetano’s statement as a lie.

with MJ BLANCAFLOR,
ELMER N. MANUEL
and MICHELLE GUILLANG

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