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Cayetano allies want it no other way

Michelle R. Guillang

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If they can have their way, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s supporters would rather not have President Rodrigo Duterte break the impasse the House leader himself had created by turning his back on his term-sharing agreement with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

Unlike last year when Cayetano needed the President to defuse the three-way deadlock between him, Velasco and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, the Speaker is now trying to boost his chances at staying on his post through his House talking heads.

And they are all in agreement to keep the President out of the speakership issue.

It was Mr. Duterte, however, who made sure Cayetano would serve as Speaker first following their so-called 15-21 deal which Cayetano had branded as a “gentlemen’s agreement” which all three of them should abide by.

The agreement gave Cayetano 15 months which should end in October before Velasco sits as Speakers for 21 months until the 2022 elections. Romualdez, meanwhile, serves as Majority leader for the whole three-year term.

Cayetano, however, is reneging on that agreement and wants to serve the full three years as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Deputy speaker Boyet Gonzales II is among the latest of Cayetano’s allies to speak out his support to the Speaker, saying Cayetano’s broader political experience has been an advantage to the congressional performance over the last 14 months.

First in history
“So this is the only time in the history of the House that a Speaker was once upon a time, both a former Senator and a cabinet Secretary, and who has had a working relationship with the current crop of sitting senators and cabinet secretaries. This obviously has helped a lot in fast-tracking the legislative mill,” Gonzales said in a statement.

He also pointed to the pandemic as another reason why change in leadership must not take place anymore, contradictory to the 15-21 term-sharing.

“The current situation in our country and the entire world is very complicated. Even the system of working in the Congress has been affected,” he said.

“With Speaker Alan at the helm of the leadership in the House, I can say that we are on a steady course, it has already been tested, and we have nothing to fear,” he added.

Caloocan Rep. Egay Erice had also appealed for Velasco to yield “and give up his desire” to be the House leader of the 18th Congress.

Improper time
San Jose del Monte, Bulacan Rep. Rida Robes, meanwhile, said that now is an improper time to talk about change in House leadership as deliberations on the proposed 2021 budget should be the House’s priority.

“All talks about changing the leadership during this time when we are tackling a measure aimed at helping our countrymen recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are ill-timed,” Robes said in a statement on Thursday.

They are no longer calling on the President’s role in breaking the impasse, something which did not sit well with the other members of the House.

Cayetano is also being questioned by the House members over his lion’s share from the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) fund for 2021.

He is being allotted some P10 billion to finance projects in Taguig City, which has two congressional districts he shares with his wife Lani.

Cayetano’s closest allies are also getting more than the rest, documents show.

Buhay Partylist Representative Lito Atienza blasted Cayetano for not honoring the “gentlemen’s agreement.”

He said the Speaker must honor the term-sharing deal between him and Velasco.

“With no conditions,” he said.

His statement is in line with Malacañang’s position on the matter.

Honor vows
Presidential spokesman Secretary Harry Roque on Tuesday also said the Chief Executive had made known his desire for Cayetano and Velasco to honor their vows.

“Speaker Cayetano assumed the Speakership on the basis of the term-sharing agreement between him and Cong. Velasco. They agreed upon that arrangement as suggested by Cayetano himself. They agreed to this in front of no less than President Duterte himself, Atienza reiterated.

The former Manila mayor questioned Cayetano’s sudden about-face, with some other congressmen claiming it was unexpected of the Speaker who also did not have much support when he sought President Duterte’s help to broker between him and Velasco.

“Cayetano did not carry the majority numbers at that time, and Cong. Velasco did not ask for that to be a condition before he agreed to the agreement,” he said.

“Now that his term is about to end and Cong. Velasco is about to begin his, why is the Speaker’s supporters questioning if Cong. Velasco has the numbers? It is totally unfair to make it a condition now,” Atienza added.

Velasco was said to have the numbers when he gave way to Cayetano in respect to the President’s decision.

Atienza called on President Duterte to do for Velasco what he did for Cayetano last year.

Atienza’s plea
“Mr. President, please do not allow the breaking of this gentleman’s agreement to share terms. Otherwise, Congress is doomed to fail if palabra de honor (word of honor) and delicadeza (propriety) are not followed,” Atienza said.

Cayetano’s closest allies have confirmed the Taguig City congressman is seriously entertaining thoughts of running for the presidency in 2022. He lost his vice-presidential bid in 2016.

Velasco had kept his silence for long despite several taunts which came from Cayetano, himself.

It was not the first time that Cayetano had accused Velasco of trying to stage a coup. But in March this year, it was discovered that Cayetano had planned a “self-coup” by raising a supposed call by his peers to declare all House seats vacant in what appeared as his first attempt to undermine their agreement made before the President.

After the discovery of Cayetano’s reserved DPWH funds, he again raised the accusation against Velasco.

Velasco, however, denied Cayetano’s statements credibility.

“I have been silent during the duration of the Gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker.”

“My silence does not mean I’m disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant.”

“’Being mum on issues’ means I just don’t want to call attention to myself. 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.”

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