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Velasco prevails as Speaker

Michelle R. Guillang

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There was no tense moment for Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco when he led a small group of 20 congressmen face President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang last night.

The President again brokered talks between Velasco and outgoing Speaker Taguig City Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, using the meeting to validate his recognition of Velasco as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Duterte last week had told Cayetano and Velasco to honor their agreement.

There should have been no need for that meeting, though, had Cayetano not reneged on his term-sharing pact with Velasco.

That agreement was also brokered by the President last year. Cayetano had agreed to serve 15 months of the first half of their three-year term, after which he should step down to allow Velasco to lead the House for 21 months until the next national elections.

Cayetano since last year had accused Velasco of orchestrating moves to unseat him, allegations which not a few congressmen have denied.

Velasco also remained cool to those events by keeping faithful to their agreement.

“I am a man of my word. I honor our agreement and my gentleman’s vow before the President,” Velasco said then.

While Velasco was criticized by Cayetano’s allies for allegedly not moving an inch to claim the speakership, they were chastised by Velasco’s own supporters by saying there was no need for Velasco to force the issue.

“The agreement was 15 months for you, 21 months for me. That’s what the congressmen have agreed on. Those are the terms we have accepted,” Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza, one of the most senior members of the House, said.

Cayetano, however, tried to gather more than 200 congressmen to sign a manifesto of support for his continued stay as Speaker.

He was criticized by the other lawmakers for doing so.

Cayetano’s term is supposed to end today, but Velasco allowed him to finish his business with the plenary on 14 October.

Official statements were expected from the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino, Velasco’s party and the incoming Speaker at press time.

The President’s announcement of the leadership change at the House was witnessed by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go. The lawmaker was also present when the President talked to Velasco and Cayetano in private.

Velasco was accompanied by Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson; 1-PACMAN Partylist Rep. Mikee Romero, AAMBIS-OWA Partylist Rep. Sharon Garin, Bacolod City Rep. Caraps Paduano, Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon.

Cayetano brought along his wife Lani, also a Taguig City representative, with Majority leader Martin Romualdez, Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, House Committee on Accounts chair Abraham Tolentino, Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo and House committee on good government and public accountability chair Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado.

Cayetano’s allies claimed the meeting was requested by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. It was denied by Executive Director Ron Munsayac.

“Boxing’s over,” Munsayac said, alluding the controversial issue to a sporting match.

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