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Alan tells Lord: ‘I am sorry’

Michelle R. Guillang

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Newly-installed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Monday disclosed that he received an apology from Alan Peter Cayetano shortly after the Taguig City representative was ousted last week as leader of the House of Representatives.

The “sorry note” was “cordial, friendly and apologetic,” Velasco said.

It came after the two rivals were called at Malacañang by President Rodrigo Duterte, who brokered the term-sharing deal in 2019 which Cayetano did not honor.

Their third trip to the Palace in two weeks since end of September happened on 13 October — a Tuesday, or the day the House majority broke into the session hall previously ordered locked by Cayetano.

It was there where they ratified the election of Velasco as the new House Speaker on Monday.

An initial 186 lawmakers made the leadership change possible after long tension-filled weeks following Cayetano’s junking of the term-sharing deal.

Cayetano was supposed to lead the House for only 15 months after which Velasco was to take over for 22 months until the 2022 elections. No less than the President had wanted that division of chores between his House leaders.

The ousted speaker, however, publicly went against Duterte’s wishes. Cayetano eventually claimed to have misunderstood Mr. Duterte’s order, saying he “thought the President wanted the budget bill passed” with him at the helm.

“He just said ‘I am sorry for what happened.’ He kept saying he might have misread the instructions of the President,” Velasco relayed.

Cayetano also announced his “irrevocable resignation” before that meeting. It came a day too late though as he was effectively ousted by the majority on Monday.

That “irrevocable resignation” also came nine minutes late after the same group ratified the vote they made at the Celebrity Sports Plaza.

The House majority failed to enter the Batasang Pambansa last Monday after it was ordered shut by Cayetano. The building’s water and electricity were also turned off on Cayetano’s orders.

Still, the Marinduque congressman offered Cayetano a chance to sit as a deputy speaker, a position laid in respect to the former Speaker.

Velasco said they have not talked after that.

“If he would allow, I want to talk to him again,” Velasco said.

A conciliation, however, would not translate to an untouched infrastructure budget for Cayetano’s Taguig City and the other favored districts, though.

“No promise was made about it,” the new House leader said. “If a district needs more budget, it will get more. If a district needs less, it will get less,” he explained.

Various infrastructure budget inserted into the proposed Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) fund for 2021 have ignited the calls for Cayetano’s removal.

Several lawmakers accused Cayetano of favoring his district, along with Taguig City’s other congressional district represented by his wife, Lani, in allocating much of the DPWH budget for local infrastructure.

The Cayetano couple is receiving some P10 billion in infrastructure projects funded by the DPWH while their other allies, including Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, are also funded more than the other lawmakers’ districts.

Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. questioned the distribution of the infrastructure funds among congressional districts. He noted those of Cayetano and Villafuerte as receiving more than the rest.

The Senate also quizzed the DPWH over various local projects which almost completely obliterated the funds which should have been reserved for “Build, Build, Build,” President Duterte’s flagship infrastructure projects.

“We can no longer recognize (the BBB allocations),” Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, one of the ardent critics of pork barrel insertions in the national budget, said. “It was mangled and unrecognizable.”

Lacson was referring to the various local infrastructure programs which were made to ride the P666,474,289,000 fund, which has a lump sum of P396 billion submitted earlier by the DPWH without specifications. It was later explained that the funds will pay for the local projects of several lawmakers.

Among these would be the construction of 43 multi-purpose buildings in Taguig City alone worth P3,984,861,000. Cayetano’s City is also building the Cayetano Sports Complex at Barangay Bagumbayan worth P212,500,000.

These projects are now under review in the Senate.

“I always believe in fair and equitable distribution. Not really equal for every district but depends on the needs,” Velasco said.

The House recently approved on third and final reading the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.

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