Cayetano defiant, insists he’s still the man

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    Not budging. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano says the passage of the national budget will be given priority when the House resumes session. PHOTO BY ROLLY SALVADOR

    “FAKE” was how Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano described the “election” yesterday of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as speaker, saying the “rump session” held at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City had no legal feet to stand on because the leader of the House of Representatives can only be constitutionally elected by the plenary.

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    Cayetano said the “session” held at the Quezon City venue was a “circus” because it was “nothing but a social club that violated the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF) rules (against mass gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic).”

    “It’s shameful,” Cayetano told a press conference at the Batasang Pambansa, adding that “for the first time, Congress has a chance of surpassing the ratings of Eat Bulaga and (It’s) Showtime.”

    “Congress is not a noontime show, Congress is not for entertainment, we’re not here for a circus,” he said.

    The Speaker said what Velasco and his supporters did was “unprecedented (and) never in the history of the Philippines that Congress was desecrated this badly,” as he stressed that the House was not even in session when Velasco’s supposed election by 186 congressmen was undertaken.

    “For them to say that’s an official session, I don’t think it ever happened in the world. It will be part of the Guinness Book of World Records as the worst desecration of a Legislature,” said Cayetano, appealing for decency because “Congress will become a laughing stock once more.”

    Cayetano challenged Velasco’s camp to present their numbers in the proper forum, which is in the plenary, saying the vote should be done right after the House approves the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 on third and final reading any day this week.

    The Speaker said he would step down if Velasco can prove he has the numbers but he cannot allow him and his supporters to make a mockery of the Constitution, the House rules and the institution, itself.

    Velasco’s camp could have just showed him the list and signatures of those who are supporting him and he would have resigned immediately if it was clear that his rival has more support than him, Cayetano said.

    “If you, Congressman Velasco are bent on destroying and burning down the House, I can leave any time but I will not allow you to burn this House down. Remember that,” he said.

    “I love this institution (House of Representatives). I’ve been here since 1998. I’ve faced many Goliaths.”

    The Speaker raised the possibility that there are “flying voters” from either camps, saying at least 200 lawmakers have signed a manifesto of support for him while Velasco supposedly has 186. The House only has 299 members.

    “I’m afraid they have more than 80 (who are for me) or even those who voted twice or flying voters that’s why any discussion on this matter has to be on the floor,” Cayetano said.

    The manifesto of support the Speaker mentioned states that Cayetano’s resignation offer on September 30 had rendered the term-sharing agreement between him and Velasco “moot and academic” after the majority rejected it.

    “Following the President’s call for the individual members of the House of Representatives to vote freely and without reservation on who we wish to lead this chamber, we the undersigned hereby manifest our full and unequivocal support for the continued leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano,” the lawmakers said in the manifesto, a copy of which was released to the members of the media.

    In signing the manifesto, the 200 lawmakers said they were declaring their “common desire to heed the call of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the entire nation for the swift passage of the 2021 National Budget that is relevant and responsive to the needs of our people as we face this crossroads of history. We therefore call on Congressman Velasco to respect the collective desire of his peers to allow the continuation of Speaker Cayetano’s exemplary leadership,” they said.

    Cayetano said he has no plans to fight for his position and will just leave it up to the members of the House to decide who they want to lead them since his track record speaks for itself.

    “If they want someone who’s absent, who can’t say the difference between the NEP (National Expenditure Program) and the GAB (General Appropriations Bill), it’s up to them but please don’t bother us while we work on the budget,” he said, as the small committee led by majority leader Martin Romualdez, which was tasked to review committee and individual amendments to the 2021 GAB continued to work yesterday.