IT’S a make or break for both Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as they meet with President Duterte at Malacañang today to resolve their lingering conflict over who will lead the House of Representatives in the next 21 months.
A House source who asked not to be identified told reporters that the President would mediate between the two House leaders to resolve their conflict, although it remains unclear if he would meddle and dictate who should lead the chamber.
While Cayetano already had an audience with the President last week to discuss the government’s anti-corruption and red tape measures with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Christopher Go and House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, it would be the first time in months for Velasco to meet with the President since Duterte brokered their “term-sharing” agreement in July last year.
Romualdez was also invited to attend the Palace meeting along with party leaders, both those who are pushing for Cayetano, who is a member of the Nacionalista Party, and Velasco, who is from the ruling PDP-Laban.
The meeting, which will be held early evening, will be held after 202 lawmakers from various parties and blocs, including Velasco’s party mates Reps. Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur and Aurelio Gonzales of Pampanga, signed a manifesto of support for Cayetano’s leadership.
In the manifesto, lawmakers from the majority coalition called for the continuation of Cayetano’s leadership, citing the need to “put aside partisan bickering in favor of the larger People’s agenda that calls for a fair, balanced, and equitable budget that will help the country recover swiftly from the effects of COVID-19.”
“In these trying times, as the nation is being wracked by an unprecedented public health and economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we reiterate our continued full and unequivocal support for Speaker Cayetano and the entire leadership of the House, and join the President in his desire to allow the membership to chart its own course in choosing those who would lead this chamber,” they added.
The 16-man minority bloc led by Manila Rep. Benny Abante also came up with its own separate manifesto of support, saying the people will be “best served with the current leadership at the helm – especially now that we are in the middle of budget deliberations that are crucial to the recovery of our nation from the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic.”
Deputy speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said Velasco has failed to prove to his peers his capability to lead as speaker because he lacked the “gravitas, experience and skills compared to Speaker Alan from the start.”
Villafuerte said Velasco has been silent on most of the major issues surrounding the House, stressing that “a speaker should have a strong voice, a speaker should have a principled stand on major issues which clearly Cong. Velasco does not have.”
Villafuerte said there are a revamp is not being discussed right now “because our attention and focus is to pass the 2021 budget on or before October 15, 2020.” If there will be changes, he said it will depend on the consultations with the new House leadership.
Deputy speaker Dan Fernandez said it was Velasco and his camp that “betrayed” Cayetano by attempting to oust him twice, dangling juicy posts and additional congressional allocations to congressmen.
In a social media post, Velasco reminded Cayetano of the importance of word of honor, saying trust and honor “reveal our true character and show what we, as leaders, are truly made of.”
Velasco said it is in this period of difficulty brought about by the pandemic “that our people yearn for honorable leaders whom they can trust: leaders who are able to live up to their promises come hell or high water, leaders with palabra de honor who lead not with lip service, but who back up their words with action.”
The lawmaker urged Cayetano to honor their agreement “for God and country,” saying it was clear that after Cayetano’s term expires on Sept. 30, his turn to lead the House immediately begins.
“That was the pledge made before the President. As true leaders and as examples for our people, both sides are obligated to avoid situations or statements that would subvert the agreement and betray the trust of our people who’ve stood witness to the covenant,” he said.