Duterte now hands off on House vote
“Stay out tayo diyan. Hands off tayo diyan. No comment tayo diyan. (We’ll stay out of it. Hands off. No comment.) That’s purely an internal matter for the House of Representatives,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque quoted the President as saying.
Michael Varcas, file
Duterte now hands off on House vote
Christina Mendez, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - October 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Learning that the House plenary voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano in his post despite a term-sharing agreement with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, President Duterte said last night he was “hands off” on the issue.

“Stay out tayo diyan. Hands off tayo diyan. No comment tayo diyan. (We’ll stay out of it. Hands off. No comment.) That’s purely an internal matter for the House of Representatives,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque quoted the President as saying.

Roque said he was instructed to make the statement after the House rejected Cayetano’s offer to resign as Speaker to give way to Velasco, a day after the two rivals met with the President in Malacañang.

Voting 184-1 with nine abstentions, congressmen chose to reject Cayetano’s resignation offer and not proceed with his term-sharing agreement with Velasco.

Roque said the President was monitoring what transpired and was aware that Cayetano had offered to resign, but congressmen voted against his wishes.

“The President said he will not intervene on the issue in Congress and he leaves it with the congressmen themselves,” he said.

Roque added that the President respects the move of the congressmen in voting for Cayetano to retain his post as Speaker.

“He had said it before… there’s nothing he could do if Congressman Velasco did not have the numbers.” Roque said.?Senate reaction

Senators said they were ready to work with whoever is Speaker of the House, but they will not compromise their stand on certain issues, such as crafting the national budget.

“We can work with any Speaker as long as we have the same perspective,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

He said it would be better if the Senate and the House leaderships revive the “mini-LEDAC” or the regular and informal but generally binding meeting between leaders of both chambers to set the legislative agenda and timetable.

He said the meetings were halted due to the pandemic, and that he and Cayetano just speak over the phone to discuss matters.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is annually at loggerheads with the House leadership during the budget deliberation season, said: “No matter who leads the House, the Senate, or at least like-minded senators who choose to be the vanguards against the legislative abuse of the power of the purse, will not be affected.”

Sen. Bong Go said he respects the internal processes of “the other chamber of Congress,” but that all those concerned must not lose sight of the most important undertaking of serving the people.

“What is far more important is for the entire Congress to continue deliberating on the legislative agenda and priorities of the Duterte administration, including the 2021 national budget and other priority measures,” he said.

Palace clarified meeting

Earlier, Roque told ANC that Duterte’s having summoned the two rivals for the speakership to the Palace Tuesday night was done in relation to his role as leader of the ruling party.

He clarified that “it is not the business of the Palace to dictate the leadership issue.”

“He (Duterte) intervened because he is the party chair of PDP-Laban and allied forces, and he facilitated an agreement of sorts between the two contenders. That’s not a function of the President per se but he did it as a party leader,” said Roque.

But whether it be as President or party leader, Duterte puts premium on “palabra de honor” (word of honor) or honoring one’s promise, his spokesman said, adding that Cayetano was tasked to make public what was discussed.

“I know that the President values palabra de honor, and that’s a phrase I have heard… But I know that the President is also a seasoned politician, he knows that he can only endorse someone to a certain extent but if there really is a choice amongst them, he cannot do anything about it,” Roque said.

Administration lawmaker Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo of ACT-CIS party-list had earlier anticipated Velasco to be the country’s youngest Speaker at 44.

Tulfo, a neophyte legislator, said she expected Velasco’s imminent leadership as a testament to a House of Representatives whose “word is their bond.” – Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla

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