THE House of Representatives yesterday formally adopted the election of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as Speaker and unseated Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, who has was left with no choice but to give up the post that he held for the last 15 months.
On the motion of deputy majority leader Juan Pablo Bondoc of Pampanga, a total of 186 lawmakers voted to ratify the election of Velasco to remove doubts hounding the new Speaker’s election at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City last Monday, which Cayetano and his group earlier called “fake” and “illegal” since it was not in accordance with the House rules.
“This is for our people, for this august body and the institution we call Congress, for the word of honor of our beloved President Duterte, and for God who makes all this happen,” said Velasco who stood at the rostrum for the first time as the leader of the Lower House. “We will not let you down.”
The session was held late in the morning after Velasco’s allies had the plenary door’s lock destroyed, a few hours before the scheduled special session at 3 p.m. for the resumption of floor deliberations on the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.
In a Facebook Live video, Cayetano conceded, saying that while he was tendering his “irrevocable resignation,” he would continue to help the administration and the new House leadership in passing the budget which has been caught in the middle of the speakership fight when he suspended the session a week before the October 16 schedule set by the Legislative Calendar.
“We’re okay, we will continue to help but right now, verbally, I am tendering my irrevocable resignation as the Speaker of the House of the Republic of the Philippines,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano said he was leaving “with a clear conscience” because “I have done my best, I have given my all, I leave with no regrets, and I hold no rancor in my heart towards anyone.”
The former House leader noted that until Monday night, he had more than 150 supporters while Velasco supposedly only had more than 120. He earlier raised suspicion that there were “flying voters” who signified support for both him and Velasco because while there are only 299 lawmakers, 200 signed a manifesto of support to retain him and 186 voted for the new speaker.
Cayetano reminded his colleagues that they still have to formally elect Velasco on the floor before the budget deliberations, vowing that his camp will not resort to any “political maneuvers and tactics.”
He also apologized to the President “if I misunderstood him,” saying he was wrong to assume that Duterte wanted him to finish the budget and wait for it to be signed onto law in December before stepping down.
“Mr. President, if I made a mistake, my reading was wrong, I misunderstood that you wanted me to continue and finish the budget, I apologize. It was not my intention – never – not to follow you,” Cayetano said. “(That’s) on me, that’s not on the President.”
MEETING THE PRESIDENT
Both Velasco and Cayetano were summoned by President Duterte to a meeting yesterday noon to discuss the approval of the proposed 2021 national budget. Sen. Christopher Go and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea joined the meeting, which was held at the Malago Clubhouse at the PSG Park in Manila
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the two congressmen vowed to work together and lead a “one majority” to ensure the swift passage of the money measure and other priority measures of the administration.
“In the course of the meeting, the two representatives agreed to work together as one majority in order to ensure the timely passage of the 2021 budget and other priority legislation of the Duterte administration” Roque said.
Go, in a message to the media after the meeting, said the President was like a father who talked and advised his children to work together for the benefit of the Filipino people.
WORD OF HONOR
In his acceptance speech, Velasco continued to attack Cayetano, saying: “The interest of our people, especially at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and the concomitant crisis it has brought, is being sacrificed at the altar of personal greed and political ambition.”
“Our people cannot wait and they do not deserve to wait even more because someone’s political plans are now in peril,” said Velasco who earlier said Cayetano wanted to remain in power because he was planning to run for president in 2022.
Velasco said the gentleman’s agreement for two parties to serve alternately which was sealed by a handshake and witnessed by the President “was a bond of honor stronger than any written contract.”
“There is no denying that all this unnecessary turmoil we are currently experiencing resulted from the abject refusal to honor that agreement,” he said.
“In the increasingly futile machinations to reject that covenant, there is one principle that was ignored and silenced — the virtue we call word of honor. While we quote verses from the Holy Book and mesmerize with elegant passages from Scripture, the blatant irony is that the Good Book itself is a testament to God honoring a promise to mankind and honoring His Word.”
Velasco said it was unfortunate that the President had to intervene and “deliver a wake-up call for this august body to shape up or ship out” and later on sought the help of his colleagues in restoring people’s trust and confidence in Congress.
“For sure, any level of redemption will require the collective commitment of every member of this august body. However, such a resolve has to start at the top, and it is to this end that this humble representation has committed to uphold and work for,” he said.
Presidential son Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte was elected yesterday as chair of the powerful House committee on accounts, a day after he resigned as deputy speaker following the election of Velasco as Speaker.
On the motion of Bondoc, the plenary elected the President’s son to head the committee which is in charge of handling the budget of the House, including the salaries and allowances of lawmakers and their offices.
The younger Duterte resigned as deputy speaker Monday night, just several hours after Velasco’s supporters held their own session and elected him speaker.
“This is to inform all of you that I will be submitting my resignation to both Speakers as deputy speaker for political affairs, this afternoon,” the presidential son posted on majority bloc’s Viber group before leaving it.
The presidential son earlier said he would remain neutral since both Cayetano and Velasco are his close friends. His sister Sara, the mayor of Davao City, was instrumental in the election of the news speaker, after she rallied support for her friend.
The House, which now has 299 members, has a budget of P15.809 billion this year which is P6.4 billion more than the P9.476 billion budget of the Senate.
Under the P4.5 trillion proposed national budget for 2021, the House has an allocated budget of P15.243 Billion which is P333 million lower than its budget this year.
Paolo will replace Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino, a close ally of Cayetano, who earlier insisted that no major changes in the House leadership should be made under the new leadership as part of his term-sharing agreement with Velasco.
Cayetano has said Velasco wants Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab to replace ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap as chair of the committee on appropriations which scrutinizes the annual national budget.
Velasco could not say yet how many will be replaced as committee chairmen but said majority leader Martin Romualdez is most likely to stay because he is supported by the supermajority coalition. – With Jocelyn Montemayor