Candor being rare in politicians, it was a delight to listen to the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lord Allan Jay Velasco.
Only weeks into warming the seat recently vacated by Taguig congressman Alan Peter Cayetano, the representative of Marinduque told Daily Tribune he had good reason to stay quietly in the background in the past 15 months.
“I just want to be in the background. I don’t much like to be at the foreground. I’m very young; I’m 42 years old. My advocacy is more on energy and environment. But most of all it is to develop my province which is Marinduque. We all know it is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines, but right now it is improving. We have been able to improve on some infrastructure, which are needed there. Being Speaker now, I would want to bring that also to all other provinces because I’ve been fighting for fairness and equality and equitability among the districts. As I have said in the past, when I talk about fairness and equity, I’m not saying that all the districts should have a fair share, but it depends on the needs. If one province, for example needs a bigger budget, it should be given more because if we do not help them, how can they survive? That would be the kind of leadership we would want to foster in Congress,” he said in English and Filipino during his guesting at Daily Tribune’s Straight Talk online show hosted last 20 October by editors Dinah Ventura, Aldrin Cardona and Dona Policar.
As he steps up from being the low-key lawmaker from Marinduque to heading the House for the next 21 months, Speaker Velasco first unveiled his secrets to a gracious character, plans for the Philippine legislature under his term, and his passion for sports and the arts.
To stoically deal with the work at hand with a firm resolve to deliver excellence in public service seems to have been a lifetime mantra for Velasco.
Putting a premium on loyalty and hard work, the legislator who is now one of the youngest Speakers in Philippine politics, never blinked an eye amid all the political hullabaloo that took place before he could assume the speakership.
Hailing from a politically-inclined family as son of Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco Jr., a former Supreme Court associate justice, and Torrijos Mayor Lorna Velasco, composure must be in the blood of Speaker Velasco.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Daily Tribune (DT): Since the speakership issue blew up, people have said you remained too quiet for the most part. Because of that, they regard you still as a mystery. What was going on with you when the former Speaker made that speech in Congress when he offered to resign?
Lord Allan Velasco (LAV): Can I go back to June 2019? I was next in line for the Speakership, and I always believe that there could never be two kings in one kingdom. I always say that. So in those 15 months, I was just working quietly in my Committee on Energy so I just gave the wings to former Speaker Cayetano because I wanted to work in a way that wouldn’t make him feel I’m stepping in. So I gave that chance and opportunity to him and he did a good job. The only problem was he would always accuse me of mounting a coup plot which was really foul because that is not the kind of person that I am. Who am I? Just a Congressman from the small island of Marinduque. I don’t think I have the capability to do that; I just work quietly.
DT: Does this mean the mystery will soon disappear? Will we hear you more and see you more?
LAV: Actually, I’m really mysterious. I’d rather stay in the background and work quietly — deliver what is needed. …I’m a little shy, you know.
DT: How would you differentiate yourself from former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the rest of the past Speakers?
LAV: A major difference perhaps would be my age. I guess I am the youngest out of all of them except for Speaker Osmeña in 1907 — he was 29 years old. As for me, I don’t have national ambitions. That’s the reason I always remain in the background. I think that is one of the major differences. I’m not sure if they have national ambitions also, but as for me, I’m just doing this for the sake of the country; for the sake of the President.
I’m not actually the type of leader that is kind of dictatorial. I always want to share the leadership with everyone. I want to make use of each and every ability of everyone in Congress.
DT: We also know that you are a lawyer by profession and you served in different capacities as a public servant and as a lawyer in your hometown, Marinduque. Would you share with us a little bit about your childhood in Marinduque?
LAV: When I was a child, I was always in Marinduque. Mostly, my childhood was a little sporty because I love sports. I love playing golf. I love playing basketball. I used to do a lot of running. I used to do triathlon. I also love scuba diving. I have been diving for a couple of years because one of my advocacies is the environment.
DT: You grew up with your father working in the Supreme Court. Tell us his influence on you following the path of law and politics.
LAV: My dad is really a big influence on me because he was always telling me about hard work. My father said you have to work hard first before you get rewarded.
DT: What about your mom? What have you learned from her?
LAV: My mom and I are the same. She loves to dance and the arts. That’s my mom. My dad is the strict one. My mom is a former beauty queen ah, FYI.
DT: Speaker, another question that people want to know is what would be the next 21 months be like for Congress under your leadership?
LAV: For 21 months, we will just keep on pushing for all the legislative agenda of the President, as well as other key priorities of Congress, like health, education, livelihood and food security. I am looking at these four aspects that Congress should push for to help our countrymen.