Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has expressed openness to being ousted if this is really the sentiment of his 299 other colleagues, even as he insisted that speaker-in-waiting Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco has been plotting to oust him.
STAR/ File
Congressmen can remove me – Cayetano
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — It is now a free-for-all at the House of Representatives.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has expressed openness to being ousted if this is really the sentiment of his 299 other colleagues, even as he insisted that speaker-in-waiting Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco has been plotting to oust him.

“I believe most members of Congress see and appreciate the reforms I stand for. If they do, then I will continue to serve as their Speaker,” Cayetano wrote in his Facebook account over the weekend amid all the hullabaloo that has caused divisiveness in the majority coalition.

“If they don’t, then they can remove me, I will continue to serve as the Representative of Taguig and Pateros. I will continue the lonely fight with whomever will join me,” he added, reiterating that he “(would) not be transactional.”

“I will not sacrifice my principles and this administration’s priorities. I believe, as does the President, that all forms of gambling lead to misery – even POGOs are a no-go for me,” the administration stalwart said, referring to Philippine offshore gaming operators.

Allies of the Speaker, led by Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte, have made their positions known and called on the camp of Velasco to honor the 15-21 (months) term-sharing agreement that is supposed to take place this October.

“It puts into question the commitment of Rep. Velasco to the pro-poor, pro-growth legislative agenda of President Duterte, if and when he does become Speaker, considering that he has no qualms now to subvert the 15-21 term-sharing arrangement,” Villafuerte said.

“If there is anything I can agree on with Rep. Velasco, it is his position now that we should just allow the members of the majority coalition to decide on the fate of the term-sharing agreement between him and Speaker Alan,” the Camarines Sur congressman proposed.

The 48-strong so-called Visayan bloc has also thrown its support behind the Cayetano leadership, with Cebu Rep. Vincent Franco Frasco reassuring the administration stalwart of their help.

“I can speak as chairman of the Visayas development committee that my fellow Visayas representatives stand solidly behind Speaker Alan in observing the protocol and courtesy due to our fellow representatives in the committee on franchises before whom the ABS-CBN franchise matter has been presented,” Frasco said in a statement.

Another House official, Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo, who sits as chairman of the committee on public information, also called on his colleagues to stop the bickering, especially since a lot of work still has to be done in terms of legislation.

Salo took a swipe at Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, “the guy who did nothing but keeps questioning the House quorum,” for claiming that the House coup was just “a figment of Cayetano’s imagination.”

“Atienza might have grown impatient because he has nothing to do in Congress, anyway, but to say that there’s always no quorum in the plenary, that’s why he’s been imagining a lot of things,” Salo said in Filipino.

Allies rally behind Velasco

Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, spokesman for Duterte’s ruling PDP-Laban party, and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, chairman of the House Electoral Tribunal, rallied behind their ally Velasco.

“Congressman Velasco is not in a rush to become the speaker,” Pimentel said.

“It is just a few months away, so it doesn’t make any sense if we do something that will just break the peace. PDP-Laban will not do anything or start anything that is not in line with the wishes of the President,” he added.

Velasco, chairman of the House committee on energy, “is not in a rush to take over the speakership and the PDP-Laban will continue to work harmoniously with Speaker Cayetano,” according to the Surigao del Sur congressman.

Pimentel said Velasco and PDP-Laban would “abide by the power-sharing agreement that was agreed upon with Speaker Cayetano, as requested by President Duterte.”

“We definitely have no intention to walk away from this agreement. We have a very good working relationship with Speaker Cayetano, and we intend to keep it that way. Whoever is behind all these loose talk about a coup against the Speaker must have a different agenda,” Pimentel added.

Leachon, for his part, called on Villafuerte, a key ally of Cayetano, to keep his mouth shut.

“This guy is unbelievably fantastic as he has that temerity to go public and say things which he knows for himself are all lies. Very good, he made himself believe in his own lies,” Leachon said.

“Produce the names of those House members who were allegedly enticed with chairmanship position because that’s not true. I’ve been with Cong. Velasco almost every day and there’s not even a single moment that such alleged offer was ever made to anybody,” he added.

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