SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday accused his colleague Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of masterminding the latest plot to oust him, saying Velasco was behind the move to delay the timetable for the approval of the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 by fielding Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves to question the alleged inequitable distribution of the infrastructure budget under the appropriations measure.
“I think pangatlong attempt na ‘to na mag-kudeta. Although iba ‘yung nagsalita – si Congressman Teves – alam naman namin kung sino nasa likod niyan (I think this is his third coup attempt. Although the talking head now is different, Cong. Teves, we know who is behind that),” Cayetano told radio dzRH.
Cayetano said Velasco has been plotting against him “from the start” even after President Duterte has already brokered their term-sharing agreement, under which Cayetano will sit for 15 months and Velasco will be the speaker for the next 21 months beginning next month.
He said Velasco has been directly involved “in the intrigues in Congress,” going around to consolidate forces even if Cayetano has long been asking for the Marinduque lawmaker’s support during his time as the leader of the House.
“During his time, suportahan ko siya. Pero hindi talaga ako nakatikim ng suporta sa kanya e (During his time as speaker, I’ll support him but I’ve never really gotten any support from him),” Cayetano said. “I think, pangatlo, pang-apat na coup attempt na nila ‘to e. Tingin yata nila na padamihan ng attempt at, finally, kapag maraming attempt, makukuha nila (I think this is their third, fourth coup attempt. They probably think they’ll finally get it the more that they try it).”
He said deputy speaker Paolo Duterte has already clarified that he is not meddling in the speakership issue and that he was just amplifying the concerns raised by some colleagues in the Mindanao bloc about their district allocations when he threatened to do move to declare the position of speaker and deputy speakers vacant, which did not happen last Monday.
“And siyempre, kung may mga lumalapit sa kanya, i-aaddress ko ‘yung mga issues na nilalapit sa kanya kasi trabaho namin magtulungan talaga (Of course, if there are some who are going to him, I’ll address these issues because it’s our job to work with each other),” he said.
Cayetano said his colleagues no longer have to plot a coup if he has really lost their support because he is prepared to relinquish the post and all they have to do is tell him.
Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas said squabble among some House members over their respective allocations in the proposed 2021 budget “is clear proof of the persistence of pork in the national budget despite the lingering COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic.”
Brosas said the issue apparently stemmed from the P397 billion initial lump sum “parked” at the DPWH Central Office, which she said “is now sliced unevenly among districts and regions.”
“These are projects which are not originally included in the DPWH’s budget in the 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) and that will be inserted in the still unprinted General Appropriations Bill (GAB),” she said.
The Speaker said some of the lawmakers who are pushing to remove him are the ones who are against the House leadership’s campaign to fight corruption in the use of their annual congressional allocations, which he said is supported by the majority and is being opposed by “some who want to use it for their selfish ends.”
“May mga gumagalaw talaga sa Kongreso but I believe, as of now, minority sila. Itong ibang mga ‘to naapektuhan dun sa ‘no corruption, no pork, no parking, no hold-up (Some are really moving in Congress but I believe, they’re the minority. Some of them are those who were affected by the ‘no corruption, no pork, no parking and no hold-up of funds),” he said.
In 2018, some lawmakers were reportedly behind the “parking” of big amounts of “pork” in the congressional districts, which were allegedly subsequently “offered” to other congressmen with little or no pork barrel allocations. In exchange, the congressmen are supposedly given leeway to choose the contractors for infrastructure projects in exchange for commissions.
In a privilege speech, Capiz Rep. Fred Castro slammed Velasco, saying he is not fit to lead the House with the way he and his allies in the ruling PDP-Laban have been acting.
“Instead of being the leader he said he was, Cong Velasco showed his true self. He did not work, he did not contribute, he did not defend this House. He did not lead, so why would he expect us to follow him? It was his mistake to think that he could just do nothing within 15 months and just one day appear to Congress to claim the speakership as if it was his birthright,” he said.
The term-sharing agreement between the Speaker and Velasco, Castro said, is just between the two of them and the bigger concern of House members is if Velasco “can actually act like one (a leader when he becomes speaker).”
Castro said that while Cayetano took pains to accommodate Velasco’s political allies in the leadership, “miserably, you (Velasco) reciprocated this goodness and offer of unity with discord among our ranks.”
He said there will be no smooth transition of power if Velasco and his camp will remove all the chairmen and deputy speakers and replace them all with his own allies because Velasco and Cayetano have already agreed that only the chairman of the committee on accounts, Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino will be replaced.
Sources said Velasco was in Davao City, asking the help of presidential daughter Mayor Sara Duterte to ensure his assumption to power and working with his own “management team.”
Deputy speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said Velasco has no chance if President Duterte will not meddle and the matter will be put to a vote on the floor because the “supermajority of congressmen now would like Speaker Alan Cayetano to continue.”
“Nakita niyo naman ‘yung performance ng Congress kahit may break nagtratrabaho, tumaas ang rating. (You’ve seen the performance of the House, we’ve been working even during the break and the rating has gone up). It’s the highest rating ever for the House of Representatives, everybody happy. Kung meron mang magreklamo (if some will complain), one or two people which the Speaker will resolve,” he said.
Villafuerte said House members have been waiting for Velasco to show leadership but he has never been active in Congress.
“I haven’t seen or heard Congressman Lord be active in any major issue. We don’t see him in Congress. It was really his choice not to be the presumptive speaker. The congressmen now are saying we’d rather let Speaker Alan to continue because he’s active, he performs, he’s qualified, these are the general sentiments of congressmen,” he said.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte remains hopeful that the term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Velasco will still be honored.
Roque said, however, that it would be up to members of the House of Representatives to resolve the leadership issue.
Roque said he discussed the House leadership issue with the President on Monday night and Duterte told him that while he is hoping that the term sharing agreement would push through, “if Congressman Lord Allan (Velasco) does not have the numbers, he cannot do anything.”
“So the President is hoping that the Speaker and Congressman Velasco will honor their agreement but ultimately the decision will be the decision of the individual congressmen,” he added.
Duterte last year intervened and brokered a term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Velasco to lead the House during the 18th Congress from 2019 to 2022.
Under the agreement, Cayetano will assume the Speaker position for 15 months – which will end in October – while Velasco will assume the remaining 21 months.
The term-sharing agreement resurfaced following reports of a possible coup to unseat Cayetano – who ran as Duterte’s vice president in 2016. – With Jocelyn Montemayor