Rep. Duterte was obviously referring to the three active pursuers of the top House post – Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig, Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque and Martin Romualdez of Leyte.
Geremy Pintolo
Coup brewing? Speaker fight not yet over — Paolo
Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - July 12, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Despite his father’s intervention, Davao City Rep. Paolo “Pulong” Duterte said the speakership war is far from over, as a disgruntled speaker wannabe might stage a “coup” at the opening of Congress on July 22.

In a text message to reporters in Filipino, the younger Duterte yesterday said he was wondering why presumptive leaders of the House of Representatives “are already talking about committees (when) a speaker has not been elected.”

“There is still an election on July 22. I am more interested in who will win (the vote), since there are rumors that one of the three (speakership aspirants) is planning a coup on that day. It appears that the fight is far from over for those three and their supporters,” he said.

Rep. Duterte was obviously referring to the three active pursuers of the top House post – Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig, Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque and Martin Romualdez of Leyte.

On Monday, President Duterte endorsed a term sharing for the speakership between Cayetano and Velasco, with Cayetano holding the post first for 15 months and Velasco serving for the remaining 21 months. The President recommended Romualdez to be the majority leader.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, however, the lawmakers themselves would have the last say on the issue.

“In the ultimate analysis, the vote on the speaker would lie on the members of Congress. The only reason why the President gave that suggestion is because those who were vying for it went to him and sought his wise suggestion to settle the row between and among them,” Panelo said.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, president of the ruling PDP-Laban party, said Cayetano still has to woo his colleagues to ensure his election as speaker, despite enjoying Duterte’s endorsement. Cayetano belongs to the Nacionalista Party.

“He (Cayetano) still has to convince his electors,” Pimentel told the Kapihan sa Senado. “He has the advantage but not the assurance so he has to work on it,” he said.

On the younger Duterte’s coup warning, Pimentel said it is “theoretically possible.” 

Last night at Malacañang, the President expressed confidence in Cayetano’s getting enough votes from his colleagues on July 22 despite rumors some groups were out to block it. “Have you heard of wishful thinking?” Asked about Cayetano’s chances, Duterte said: “Alan? He will.”

While Cayetano has accepted a term-sharing arrangement, Velasco has not commented on it. In the case of Romualdez, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda and other supporters said he was accepting the majority leadership.

Rep. Duterte and his sister Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio have suggested a compromise candidate for speaker: Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City’s third district. They have formed the Duterte Coalition to gather support for Ungab.

Carpio said her Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party is against term sharing. “It is counterproductive. It will slow down the last three years of the administration of the President. The House will be wracked with unseating the incumbent speaker, deceit, dissent and distrust,” Carpio said.

Most House members are expected to vote on July 22 for the aspirants endorsed by the President despite the presidential siblings’ opposition to term sharing, which they said would just disrupt the work of lawmakers.

“We heard it from the President last Monday, we will heed him,” Rep. Mikee Romero of 1-Pacman, who heads the 54-member Party-list Coalition (PLC), told ABS-CBN News Channel.

Counterproductive

Romero said it would be counterproductive for legislators to go against the wishes of the President.

“We will have a very destructive government. It will be the nation, the economy and the people who will suffer if we go head-to-head against Malacañang. You know, the economy is expanding by seven to eight-percent in terms of GDP (gross domestic product), it might collapse if we quarrel. So, really, we have to go hand-in-hand,” he said.

Asked about PLC’s request for proportional representation in House and committee assignments, Romero said Cayetano is open to it.

“He told us that between friends, there is no need to negotiate. We took that to mean that he will consider it,” he said.

The coalition has asked to be assigned 20 percent of House and committee posts, since its members comprise one-fifth of the House.

Panelo, meanwhile, stressed that the President had never intervened in the speakership row and that his endorsement of Cayetano came only after the latter and the other contenders to the post sought the President’s help to break the impasse.

A rejection of Cayetano’s speakership bid by his colleagues, Panelo emphasized, should not be seen as a reflection of Duterte’s waning influence on his allies in the House of Representatives.

“It’s not a reflection of the clout of the President. The President did not want to interfere in the first place. He did not want to intrude. It’s them who somehow persuaded him to come in,” he said.

On the term-sharing agreement, Panelo reiterated the matter was better left to the discretion of the congressmen.

“Again that will, we will leave it to the judgment of the members of Congress. I will not preempt the wisdom of the members of Congress on this matter,” he said.

Senator Pimentel, meanwhile, said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny   Pimentel and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales of PDP-Laban met last night with Cayetano to begin negotiations for committee assignments.

They were under instructions from party leaders to secure most of the chairmanships of certain committees held by PDP-Laban in the previous Congress, plus representation in the Commission on Appointments, and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal.

Pimentel said the two congressmen were given explicit instructions to draft with Cayetano a clear transition plan for the turnover of the speakership to Velasco.

Pimentel said the transition process must start shortly before Cayetano’s term as speaker ends.

Cayetano’s chances for election will be shaky if all 85 PDP-Laban members in the House will not vote for him as the chamber needs only a plurality to elect a speaker, Pimentel explained.

Therefore, Cayetano must deal with PDP-Laban members in the House with transparency, fairness and respect during the negotiations, Pimentel stressed.

“The true spirit of negotiations is give and take – his take is huge already, the speakership, so there must be a give,” he said.

No term limit

Cayetano meanwhile said he is open to scrapping the term limits prescribed by the present Constitution for senators and congressmen.

In a meeting with his congressmen-supporters on Wednesday night, he clarified that what he is advocating is not a “term extension” for lawmakers without the benefit of an election but a longer stay in office when they get elected.

He said the House of Representatives would have to get the Senate to support a longer term.

“I’d like to clarify that, you know, while we will push for federalism, I think there is a way that the Senate will agree that we push either for four years with no term limit or five years with term limit,” he said.

Under the Constitution, House members have a term of office of three years with two reelections, or a total of nine consecutive years in office. On the other hand, senators have six years with one reelection, or a total of 12 years.

Under Cayetano’s proposal, congressmen would enjoy an additional one-year to two years in office per term, while senators would lose one year.

“It’s not a political thing, it’s a practical thing,” Cayetano said.

With the current term of three years, he said a congressman has practically only one year for his lawmaking job.

A lawmaker spends at least six months of his first year organizing and learning the ropes, and on the third year, he starts thinking and campaigning for the next election, he said.

Cayetano’s colleagues supported his proposal for a longer term of four-five years for lawmakers.

“I agree that it’s the practical thing to do so we can have more time for lawmaking and attending to the concerns of our constituents,” Romero of 1-Pacman said in a television interview.

He said he is open to keeping the term limits to give others a chance to seek public office and not face incumbents as opponents.

“Whether it is two terms or three terms, we can discuss that,” he said.

In his meeting with his supporters, Cayetano did not talk about the term limits for the president, vice president and other elective officials, and the manner of changing the term for lawmakers, which is obviously through Charter change (Cha-cha).

President Duterte has asked his congressional allies to work on Cha-cha during his last three years in office.

In case the House and the Senate agree to do Cha-cha, they would have to first resolve whether they would convene as a constituent assembly (con-ass) and how they would vote – separately or jointly – on every Cha-cha proposal.

A con-ass is one of the modes of introducing Charter amendments, which would have to be ratified by the people in a plebiscite.   –  With Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado, Delon Porcalla

ALAN PETER CAYETANO PAOLO DUTERTE
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