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Cayetano bows out Wednesday

Michelle R. Guillang

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President Rodrigo Duterte will meet a small group of 20 to settle the dispute on the House of Representatives leadership after Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano turned his back on the term-sharing agreement forged no less by the Chief Executive last year.

That group will include not just Cayetano but also his wife Lani, the other Taguig City representative, who was also the subject of complaints from other lawmakers who noted the couple’s gargantuan share from the 2021 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) along with their closest allies.

Presumptive Speaker Lord Allan Velasco will come alone, assisted only by the leaders of the other political parties dominant in House when they are united under the President’s guidance.

Velasco will join the meeting after denying the authenticity of the petition paper that circulated among the congressmen on Monday. It supposedly courted their support for a leadership change in the House, which Velasco dismissed as nonsense.

The President had called the meeting after Cayetano reneged on their agreement to split the speakership with Velasco scheduled to take over at the end of September until the May 2022 elections.

Cayetano had agreed to sit as Speaker for 15 months from June last year before giving way to Velasco who will serve for 21 months.

It was President Duterte, himself, who formulated the “15-21” deal.

Cayetano had earlier suggested an equal split of 18 months for each of them. But when the question on who should go first cropped up, President Duterte told Cayetano to take the first 15 months and honor Velasco’s turn for the next 21.

Cayetano agreed at first.

In March this year, however, Cayetano accused Velasco of orchestrating moves to unseat him although it was the Speaker’s allies who have raised the need for an election to whittle down the agreement.

It did not fly, however, as several congressmen described Cayetano’s move as a “coup against himself.”

Cayetano had made the same claim recently but this was only after several congressmen questioned Taguig City’s king’s share from the DPWH budget.

“The issue then was the budget and how the Cayetano couple have claimed a big chunk of it– not any leadership change. There’s an agreement that exists and it should be honored. That change will come. There is no need to force it. The deal will take care of it,” a lawmaker told Daily Tribune.

Cayetano had even tried to solicit signatures from a great majority of his House peers. Those who signed, another Daily Tribune source claimed, allegedly received P2 million each from the House’s maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) budget.

That is aside from Cayetano’s meeting with Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, the President’s son, over the weekend.

It is believed that the supposed petition paper calling to support Velasco was a publicity handiwork to support Cayetano’s allegation that the youthful Marinduque leader is orchestrating a coup.

“There’s no need. Congressman Cayetano’s part of the 15-21 deal ends this month,” the same lawmaker source of the Tribune reiterated.

And because it is President Duterte, himself, who asked Velasco to give way to Cayetano before he takes his turn on the first day of October, the Chief Executive will meet with them at the Palace.

This was confirmed to Daily Tribune on Monday by Ron Munsayac, executive director of PDP-Laban, the political party of Duterte and Velasco.

Political party leaders and coalition allies from the House will join the meeting, Munsayac added.

Amid the demonstration of support to Cayetano by over 200 House members, Velasco insisted the 2019 covenant should be honored by the gentlemen who signed it.

Velasco will also honor the appointments made by Cayetano after he had assumed the speakership in June last year.

“There will be no changes in the positions. The various committees and the deputies will retain their posts,” a lawmaker-ally of Velasco told the Tribune. “That is part of the pact.”

Velasco, in a statement, said:

“Trust and honot are values that are important especially in these trying times. They reveal our true character and show what we, as leaders, are truly made of.”

And in this period of difficulty that our people yearn for honorable leaders whom they can trust– leaders who are able to live up to their promises come hell of high water; leaders with palabra de honor (word of honor) who lead not with lip service but who back up their words with action.”

“When the House speakership term-sharing agreement was entered into, it was based on mutual trust and confidence. After all, it was an agreement brokered by and forged in the presence of no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.”

“The covenant was crystal clear: A 15-21 term-sharing agreement. The first term expires on 30 September, after which the second term immediately begins. That was the pledge made before the President. As true leaders and as examples for our people, both sides are obligated to avoid situations or statements that would subvert the agreement and betray the trust of our people who’ve stood witness to the covenant.”

“Let us uphold the agreement as this was made ‘FOR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY 1521.’ I have always intended to honor the agreement. We all should. Our people deserve nothing less,” Velasco said.

Meanwhile, ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap clarified that Cayetano did not fly to Davao to meet with Deputy Speaker and the President’s son Paolo Duterte.

Yap said the meeting occurred in Manila and was nothing but a “casual conversation.”

The young Duterte last week warned to ask the Mindanao bloc to declare all seats vacant at the House following complaints of inequity in the distribution of funds related to infrastructure projects.

The House is also currently in the middle of discussions on the 2021 budget, which the Cayetano camp says would stall if there will be a change in leadership.

Velasco’s allies said budget deliberations would be finished on time if both parties will abide by their pledges.

with MJ BLANCAFLOR

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