House sizzles anew with personal politics

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    IT’S open season at Lord’s House once again.

    The camps of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and his predecessor, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, have resumed their bickering after the former speaker formed an independent majority bloc which Velasco’s allies believe is aimed at undermining the new leadership.

    Cayetano, who was replaced by Velasco last October as the leader of the House, yesterday introduced the members of the seven-man “BTS sa Kongreso,” a new political bloc named after the internationally popular South Korean boyband BTS or Bangtan Boys.

    The former speaker said he formed the group because traditional politics or “trapo” has returned under the new leadership and it has gotten a little lazy.”

    “It (House) has become ‘trapo’ once again. Instead of being the House of the people, it has turned into the House of politics,” he said in Filipino at a press conference in Quezon City, adding that BTS means “Back to Service” Congress.

    The other members of the group are Reps. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. of Camarines Sur, Dan Fernandez of Laguna, Raneo Abu of Batangas, Michael Defensor of Anakalusugan party-list, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, and Fredenil Castro of Capiz.

    “BTS only means we should return to efficient public service. It was a call, not a name,” said Cayetano.

    While he did not threaten to attempt a coup against Velasco, Defensor said BTS sa Kongreso is actually a bigger group because “we have sympathizers and supporters that are part of the House leadership.”

    The Speaker’s camp led by senior deputy speaker Salvador Leachon of Oriental Mindoro called the group’s media event a “cheap publicity stunt” and “political gimmickry” which they said was done in a bid to attract public attention.

    “This is an obvious publicity stunt and gimmickry from someone who’s trying to revive his political career, which suffered a major setback after an overwhelming majority of House members ousted him from the top House post three months ago,” he said.

    “But I wish them good luck, and a piece of advice: don’t ride on BTS’ popularity because it might connote a different meaning fitting of what they attempt to do, Bitter Talaga Sila (they’re really bitter),” he also said.

    Leachon called Cayetano’s tirades against Velasco “baseless and unfair,” saying Velasco is consistent in his trademark style of working away from the limelight.

    “Not doing Facebook live or press conferences doesn’t mean he’s disinterested or sitting around doing nothing,” he said. “Sino ba ang talagang namumulitika? Sino ba ang hindi maka-move-on? Sino ba ang bitter? (So, who’s really politicking? Who’s the one who can’t move on? Who’s bitter?”)

    Leachon pointed out that from October 12 to December 16, the legislative chamber processed a total of 185 measures, 26 of those were signed into law by President Duterte, including the P4.506-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2021 and the laws extending the validity of funds appropriated through the Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2 and the 2020 GAA.

    The House also approved 86 national and local bills on final reading and 71 national and local bills on second reading.

    Cayetano told Velasco’s camp that he no longer cares about the speaker’s post after losing it and only formed the group to improve the Lower House’s brand of public service.

    “It’s very apparent to us that the new speaker’s minions have launched a smear campaign,” he said. “The speakership is all yours, shove it to your lungs if you want. That’s not the issue here, the issue is our people are suffering,” he said, again criticizing the House’s renewed Charter change campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    He said that while Charter change and the abolition of the party-list system are all important national issues, it is not appropriate to discuss it at a time when the national government’s focus should be on mass vaccination against COVID-19.

    Cayetano said Velasco and his allies are “panicking” upon hearing of his group’s formation because they allegedly padded their districts’ budgets under the 2021 GAA.

    “The problem is you’re panicking when we’re talking because you added billions in your budgets. But that’s not what why we’re (BTS sa Kongreso) here,” he said.