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Wheeling and dealing

Aldrin Cardona

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Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is expected to release more statements of support from his peers in the next days to be able to duck recognition of his term-sharing deal with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

“Frenetic” was how a leading member of the House of Representatives described the activities at the Office of the Speaker as various statements are being crafted aside from twice-a-week meetings by Cayetano with the other congressmen.

“That’s how busy the Speaker is with just 36 days left before his expected exit — that is if he will leave,” the Daily Tribune source said.

Cayetano is making sure he is getting the support of what for him is the strongest bloc to have challenged his rule — that of the Mindanao congressmen who have boldly supported the call to have all seats of the House vacant.

The Speaker’s camp this weekend tried soliciting signatures to have the Mindanao bloc express its support for him to stay in his seat.

His “gentlemen’s agreement” with Velasco, however, is his hurdle.

A supposed “Statement of the Representatives of Northern Mindanao (Region 10) on the Issue of the Leadership of the House of Representatives,” a copy of which was obtained by Daily Tribune, is the latest of the statements being solicited by Cayetano from his peers.

After known Cayetano allies have issued their own statements favoring the incumbent Speaker, the new missive is also aimed at generating more support to the Taguig City congressman.

It says:

“The Members of the House of Representatives representing the legislative districts of Northern Mindanao are crossing party lines and are united in rejecting any attempt to effect a change in the leadership of the House that is not in keeping with the guidance of the head of the administration coalition, President Rodrigo Duterte.”

“Under its present leadership, with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano at the helm, the House has worked harmoniously and tirelessly to fulfill the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration and passed measures to improve the welfare of the Filipino people.”

“Now, as we deliberate on a national budget while facing a pandemic and an economic recession, we call on all colleagues to cast politics and personal interests aside, support the present leadership of the House and focus on the crucial task of crafting a budget that will address the crisis we are facing and help alleviate the plight of so many of our constituents.”

Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, the President’s son, almost towed the Mindanao bloc in declaring all House seats vacant after several solons discovered the inequity in the distribution of the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 2021.

It was found that Cayetano is sharing some P10-billion worth of projects inserted in the DPWH under the national expenditure program with his wife, Lani, who represents the other half of Pasig City in Congress.

Some congressmen who are known Cayetano allies are also getting more than the rest.

It was then when Cayetano cried “coup” and accused Velasco of orchestrating a leadership change.

Velasco denied Cayetano’s allegations.

In a statement, Velasco said:

“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.”

Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza, meanwhile, said Cayetano should respect and honor the agreement which they sealed in front of President Duterte.

“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 stated.

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

“With no conditions,” he said.

“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,” Atienza added.

“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,” he said.

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.

“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.

Malacañang has also made clear that it wants the agreement between Cayetano and Velasco honored by both sides.

During a briefing, presidential spokesman Secretary 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.

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 the should abide by.

The agreement gave Cayetano 15 months which should end in October before Velasco sits as Speakers for 21 months until the 2021 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.

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