House leadership coup rumors spark word war
n a chance interview with reporters in Taguig City, Cayetano pointed an accusing finger at Velasco after learning from 20 congressmen that the Marinduque lawmaker had allegedly been promising perks and committee chairmanships to the Speaker’s allies.
Senate PRIB/Released, file
House leadership coup rumors spark word war
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - February 28, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A word war erupted between Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and speaker-in-waiting Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco yesterday, just seven months before their supposed term-sharing agreement takes effect.

In a chance interview with reporters in Taguig City, Cayetano pointed an accusing finger at Velasco after learning from 20 congressmen that the Marinduque lawmaker had allegedly been promising perks and committee chairmanships to the Speaker’s allies.

“It’s verified that there is an attempt, unless the 20 congressmen are lying to me,” Cayetano said partly in Filipino.

Malacañang said it expected Cayetano to abide by the gentleman’s agreement he forged with Velasco.

Though the Palace respects the House of Representatives as a co-equal branch of government, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said he saw no reason why Cayetano would not comply with the agreement.

“So, since there has been an agreement, then, since Speaker Cayetano said he would comply with the agreement, I don’t think there is a problem,” Panelo said.

He expressed confidence in Cayetano’s style of leadership, particularly when some legislators questioned him why the chamber has not acted on the renewal of franchise of TV network ABS-CBN.

“What he was saying is that, with respect to his leadership, he said – relative to the hearing of franchises – he said if you are in agreement with my position, then that’s good. If you are not, then maybe there is a need for change of leadership and he doesn’t mind. That was what he said,” he said.

The Palace spokesman, however, disputed the claims that Velasco is behind an ouster plot against Cayetano.    

“One of the congressmen there has disputed that claim. He says he has not heard of that,” Panelo said, referring to Rep. Raul del Mar.  “Maybe that is only the perception of Speaker Alan Cayetano.”

Since Velasco and Cayetano are both allies of the President, Panelo finds it proper not to meddle into the leadership issue.   

“They should resolve the matter, depending on what they agreed upon. As I can see it from Speaker Cayetano, he was more challenging the members of the Congress, ‘if you are not satisfied with me, so just do what you want to do’,” he said.

Based on his own information, Panelo expressed belief that Cayetano still enjoys the support of many of his colleagues.   

Asked how the President would assess Cayetano’s leadership so far, the Palace official said he has not heard any complaint from the Chief Executive and neither did he hear him say he was satisfied.  

Velasco—a very close friend of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and President Duterte himself—issued a disclaimer early in the day, belying insinuations he plotted to oust the Taguig congressman by taking advantage of the ABS-CBN franchise issue. 

“To my kababayans, these reports are far from the truth,” he said. “Up to this day, I continue to honor the term-sharing agreement brokered by no less than President Duterte when the 18th Congress convened in July 2019. From the beginning, I never had any intention of reneging on this agreement. I am a man of my word.”

He added that “the reports were meant to create deep division within the House and its members, destroy camaraderie, distract lawmakers from fulfilling their mandate, and more importantly, derail the key legislative agenda of the Duterte administration.”

But Cayetano seemed unconvinced, noting that Velasco had been uttering remarks like “next year (2021) is my budget, and I will be the one to dictate who will I give it to.” 

“So, my unsolicited advice to those in the House leadership like the committee chairmen who couldn’t wait: if you cannot cooperate with the present leadership, you might as well leave your committees and come back when Congressman Velasco becomes the Speaker,” he said. 

Cayetano nevertheless said he doesn’t take it personally since it comes with the territory. 

  “You know as I’ve said I’m used to it, I’ve been in politics for 28 years and there’s always someone after your position, right? But now that he (Velasco) said that he’ll wait, he intends to honor it. So, honor it by supporting the majority. There is a sabotage of the budget that is happening now and we were able to trace it to their camp. We will deal with it decisively,” he said. – With Christina Mendez

ALAN PETER CAYETANO
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