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Coup rumors emerge from House as elections draw nearer

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Rumors of yet another leadership change at the House of Representatives are swirling as battle lines are drawn for the crucial 2022 elections.

Coup rumblings were first made public by House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, who on Tuesday denied that there were plans to unseat House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco of the administration PDP-Laban party.

"I have no intention to effect any leadership change, especially the speakership," Romualdez said in a statement, adding that he will abide by the agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte between him, Velasco and former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

Under the agreement, Romualdez sits as majority leader, while Cayetano gets to sit as speaker for 15 months and Velasco takes the helm afterwards for 21 months. This agreement fell through as lawmakers had to declare the speakership vacant despite Cayetano's objections.

His statement was followed shortly after by a Politiko report which speculated that a leadership change in the House is imminent after lawmakers, excluding those close to Romualdez, were invited to a dinner in Malacañang.

Some 100 lawmakers were present during the dinner with Duterte, where he endorsed his long-time aide turned senator Bong Go and his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio for president and vice president.

Noticeably absent, however, were Romualdez and other lawmakers from Lakas – CMD, which is fielding Duterte-Carpio for vice president, fuelling speculation that the majority leader has fallen out of favor with Malacañang, which typically anoints congressional leaders despite the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

Duterte-Carpio on Wednesday said she was accepting Lakas-CMD's offer to be party chair.

But Rep. Michael Aglipay (Diwa party-list), who was present at the dinner, said no one from Malacañang signalled to them to give Romualdez the boot.

If anything, Aglipay said, coup talks originated from Romualdez’ camp whom he said wanted to shield the majority leader from any leadership change by threatening to unseat Velasco.

Lakas-CMD, however, called this “preposterous.” 

“Once again, these rumors did not originate from us and we don’t have any intention of changing the leadership in the House of Representatives,” the party said in a statement.

All this coup talk surfaced following the substitution drama last Saturday that saw Duterte-Carpio run for vice president and Go join the presidential race.

At the dinner with lawmakers, Duterte endorsed a tandem between his long-time aide, Go, and his daughter, Duterte-Carpio. This diverges from Lakas-CMD’s tandem of presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio.

Whether a coup materializes this late in the 18th Congress is still uncertain, but is certainly worth keeping a keen eye on as congressional leaders will have a say on the final outcome of next year’s P5-trillion budget.

2022 ELECTIONS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES LORD ALLAN VELASCO MARTIN ROMUALDEZ
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