SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday accused Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco of plotting to oust him over the way the House leadership is handling ABS-CBN Corporation’s application to renew its legislative franchise.
Cayetano said based on information given to him by 20 colleagues at the House, Velasco is dangling chairmanship posts and congressional allocations to secure the support of other administration congressmen way ahead of his scheduled takeover of the House top post in October, as agreed upon with President Duterte before Cayetano assumed the speaker post in July last year.
“Normal naman kapag nahuhuli, nagde-deny. But (it’s true) unless 20 congressmen are lying to me, that pinapangakuan ng chairmanship… I don’t think naman mang-iintriga ang 20 congressmen (It’s normal to deny when you’re caught but it’s true, unless 20 congressmen are lying to me, that they’re being offered chairmanship posts… I don’t think 20 congressmen will sow intrigue),” he told reporters in an interview at the Taguig City University.
Velasco denied he is plotting to oust Cayetano, denouncing what he said are “baseless reports” being peddled by “certain camps with vested interests.”
The claims, he said in a statement, “are far from the truth” and are only meant to “create deep division within the House of Representatives and its members, destroy camaraderie, distract lawmakers from fulfilling their mandate, and more importantly, derail the key legislative agenda of the Duterte administration.”
“Up to this day, I continue to honor the term-sharing agreement brokered by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte when the 18th Congress convened in July 2019. From the beginning, I never had any intention of reneging on this agreement. Tayo po ay lalaking may isang salita. (I am a man of my word),” he said.
Under the term-sharing arrangement, Cayetano would lead the House for 15 months up to October this year while Velasco would serve the remaining 21 months of the Speaker’s three-year term of office beginning end of October this year.
Velasco belongs to the administration PDP-Laban party, which is gradually losing members in the House to other political groups.
Cayetano said the ouster plot is “verified” and told the alleged plotters not to use the budget, the ABS-CBN issue, and chairman posts because it will disrupt Congress’ work.
It was Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza who said the House “should have a new speaker” if the present leadership will continue to sit on the 11 pending ABS-CBN franchise bills which the House leadership plans to tackle in August, with the assurance that the network giant will be allowed to continue operating even if it’s franchise is set to lapse on March 30.
The Speaker said he is willing to go jail with ABS-CBN executives if they will be charged and detained for continuing to broadcast while Congress is deliberating on bills seeking to renew its congressional franchise.
Cayetano was referring to his formal request for the NCT to grant ABS-CBN provisional authority to operate effective from May 4, 2020 until such time that Congress has made a decision on bills seeking to renew it.
The Speaker also accused Velasco’s camp of being behind moves to “sabotage” this year’s P4.1-trillion national budget, the source of all the districts’ congressional allocations.
In a privilege speech last Wednesday, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said a “lost soul” has been trying to block the release of district allocations under this year’s budget, depriving congressional districts of much-needed funds for projects in the countryside.
Castro’s speech was delivered almost a week after Sen. Panfilo Lacson announced that Malacañang has blocked the release of some P80 billion in infrastructure funds that some House members have allegedly tried to realign from the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure programs this year to their pet projects.
The House committee on appropriations, which scrutinizes the annual proposed national budget, is chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab who was supposed to be the candidate for speaker of presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and his brother, deputy speaker Paolo Duterte, who are both against the term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Velasco.
‘GIVE UP YOUR POSTS’
Cayetano told committee chairmen who are siding with Velasco to resign from their positions and wait for their candidate to assume the speakership before returning to their posts.
“If you cannot cooperate with the present leadership, umalis muna kayo sa committees ninyo, sa chairmanship ninyo, bumalik na lang kayo ‘pag speaker na si Congressman Velasco but habang ako ang Speaker, we do things by consensus, kung ano ang tama ‘yun ang gagawin natin (If you cannot cooperate with the present leadership, leave your committees first, your chairmanships, and just return when Congressman Velasco is speaker but while I’m still speaker, we do things by consensus. We’ll do what is right),” he said.