This was what Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters in a chance interview on Thursday during the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee meeting in Tagaytay City.
The STAR/File
Cayetano: Let’s focus on work, not next speaker
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - November 16, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It would be in the best interest of Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, to concentrate on making good laws for the benefit of millions of Filipinos, rather than talk about who the next speaker will be.

This was what Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters in a chance interview on Thursday during the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee meeting in Tagaytay City.

“My answer has always been standard. In fact, there has hardly been any congressman who had talked about the speakership. It has always been about work,” the lawmaker said.  

“Let’s just do our best in the 15 months,” Cayetano added. “What if Congressman (Lord Allan) Velasco himself would say that he doesn’t want it anymore? Or what if before the 15 months I would say ‘I’ve done all that I needed to do?’” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Under the formula forged and brokered last July by no less than President Duterte himself, Cayetano would be speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, while Velasco would take over the remaining months. 

“So many things can happen but no one is saying that, as of now, that it won’t be followed. I have been saying from the start, let’s respect the call of the President,” Cayetano said, assuring Velasco he will honor the term-sharing agreement.

Duterte said earlier he will be keeping a hands-off policy on the speakership issue.  

“It’s up to you if the parties would honor (the term-sharing agreement). I’m not forcing anybody to take a stand. It’s your choice because the agreement and the choice is yours, because you can make or unmake the speaker,” the Chief Executive said. 

Velasco nevertheless believes Cayetano will honor the term-sharing agreement they forged with the President last July. “On my part, as far as I’m concerned, an agreement is an agreement – a gentleman’s agreement. And based on that gentleman’s agreement, I will see you next year as the Speaker of the House,” he told reporters on Thursday. 

The godson of Duterte – who is also very close to Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and her congressman-brother, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte – refused to discuss the issue with journalists at this point, when he is still preoccupied with work. 

“We are focused on working at passing laws which I believe will help bring the prices of electricity down,” Velasco, chairman of the House committee on energy, explained further. 

He conceded that being Speaker is not manna from heaven, as it “will go through voting.” 

Last month, Cayetano – an ally of Duterte and stalwart of the Nacionalista Party – reassured the public that he will honor the term-sharing agreement with Velasco who will succeed him in late 2020. 

“I’m planning for 15 months and so far we already have three months. So, hopefully we can focus on our work and until that time, perhaps it would be best if we only do what we have to do. Otherwise, there might be disunity,” he told newsmen.

“For me, we can be more productive if we just do our job. After the 15th month, perhaps I have to say I’ve done my job. Now, the question is did I do it well or not? So, that is where I want to focus first,” he stressed. 

Cayetano nonetheless expressed openness to the idea of extending his leadership until 2022, but only if Velasco would be willing. “Am I open to the possibility? If Congressman Velasco himself would tell me: ‘Go ahead finish the term,’ then why should I force him?” he asked. 

“While Congress is independent and the executive does not meddle in its affairs, it’s still the President who will decide on matters concerning the administration coalition,” he explained to newsmen.

ALAN PETER CAYETANO
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