Alan to Lord: You’ll be speaker if the President wants you to

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    SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday told Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco to hold his horses and just wait for President Duterte to make him the leader of the House of Representatives instead of plotting to oust the current leadership.

    He said Velasco should not fear about not becoming speaker, if the President really wants him to.

    “Ang message ko lang sa kanya (Velasco), trabaho lang tayo, huwag tayong magsiraan, huwag tayong mag-intrigahan at huwag kang matatakot na hindi ka magiging speaker kasi kung ‘yan talaga ang gusto ng Presidente — he is the head of our coalition — mangyayari ‘yan (My message to him is let’s just work, let’s not destroy each other and sow intrigues and don’t be afraid that you’ll not become speaker because if that’s what the President wants – he is the head of the coalition – it will happen),” Cayetano told reporters Monday evening after a meeting with members of Nacionalista Party, his political party, and the powerhouse National Unity Party.

    Cayetano reiterated he would give way to Velasco once the President tells him to relinquish the post by November, the end of his 15-month stint as leader of the House, based on their term-sharing agreement.

    There is no doubt, he said, that he has been consistent in following the President’s will, right from the start.

    “Pagdating ng araw at sabi ng Pangulo na time to change, eh di change. Change court, change court,” he said.

    Cayetano earlier said the coup was hatched because of the House leadership’s investigation into the P95-billion in debts that power generators owe government. He said Velasco’s camp was merely using the delay in House action on bills seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Corp. as an issue to oust him.

    One of the companies being investigated by a House joint committee is the South Premier Power Corp., an affiliate of San Miguel Corp. of businessman Ramon Ang who is close to Velasco and wife Rowena.

    The Speaker said Velasco should have heard the issue in the committee on energy, which he chairs, instead of plotting to oust him.

    “Energy chair tapos ayaw naman niya i-hear yung utang sa PSALM (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp.) [He wanted to chair the energy panel but he doesn’t want to hear these debts to PSALM?],” he said.

    ‘WHY ROCK THE BOAT?’

    Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. said majority of the members of the administration coalition are happy with Cayetano’s leadership because “everyone is treated equally.”

    Barzaga, NUP president, the first political party to support Cayetano’s speakership bid last year, said that an “overwhelming majority of congressmen are still for Cayetano.”

    “We’re very happy. As a matter of fact, we do not expect so much from the Speaker or any additional projects or additional privileges because the Speaker treats us equally,” he told ANC.

    It was lamentable, he said, if a coup attempt would happen because it was the President himself who brokered the term-sharing between Cayetano and Velasco.

    “And that is the pain on part of the Speaker because he’s trying to appease everybody and yet, there were attempts to unseat him,” said Barzaga, who chairs the House committee on natural resources.

    Barzaga said the Speaker equitably distributed chairmanship positions to all the political parties which supported him “and he was expecting that there would be loyalty and stability in the House in order that the President’s legislative agenda would push through.”

    Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party slammed the removal of Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab as chair of appropriations committee, saying it’s “grossly unacceptable.”

    The HNP, in a statement, said Ungab’s ouster is also “disadvantageous to the Duterte administration’s reform agenda for the Filipino people and the country.”

    Aside from Ungab, also stripped of a post was Rep. Salvador Leachon (Oriental Mindoro), as member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).

    Both lawmakers are perceived to be against Cayetano’s leadership for being supporters of Velasco.

    VILLAFUERTE VS LEACHON

    Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said Leachon was kicked out as HRET member for alleged impropriety because of a pending electoral protest against him before the nine-member body.

    “It turns out that he (Leachon) had conned the Speaker because he had asked him to be a member of HRET during last year’s organization of the House committees without telling him about the pending electoral protest against him,” he said. “Rep. Leachon seems shorn of any moral compass, because if he actually had one, he wouldn’t have had the gall to trick the Speaker by asking him to be named last year to HRET despite the clear conflict of interest in his case.”

    Villafuerte said the House leadership has also received reports that Leachon had been telling their peers with pending electoral protests that the panel would “look kindly” on their cases should they decide to join the PDP-Laban, Velasco’s party.

    Leachon, in a statement, accused Villafuerte of making P6 billion worth of “pork insertions” in the 2020 General Appropriations Act, including for the construction of phase one of the Camarines Sur Iconic Capitol Building and the Capitol Complex Sports and Convention Center in Pili town.

    “It’s quite obvious that he was hit hard and then purposely evaded the issue about his pork barrel insertions of almost P6 billion in the 2020 General Appropriations Act,” he said.

    In a press conference yesterday, Leachon said Villafuerte’s insertions in the budget were made illegally because these were done after the budget has been approved at the bicameral level.

    “I say illegal because that was done after the bicam. Yun nga ang ikina-gagalaiti ni Senator (Panfilo) Lacson (That’s what Sen. Lacson was so mad about),” he told reporters.

    Leachon said it is unfair to say that he was kicked out of the HRET for impropriety because he informed the Speaker of the pending electoral case against him two days after he learned of it.

    “Sabi nila, ‘You can inhibit.’ In fact, sa kanila naman nangyari yung idea (They said, ‘You can inhibit from the case. In fact, the idea came from them,” he said.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said Malacañang is confident the administration’s legislative agenda would not be derailed by the “intramurals” at the House “because all of them support the agenda of the President, or most of them anyway.” – With Jocelyn Montemayor