IN a last-ditch effort to secure the speaker’s post, the camp of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco yesterday said President Duterte will lose credibility if the lawmaker does not become the House of Representatives’ leader based on the term-sharing agreement which the Chief Executive brokered last year between Velasco and incumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
For Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, it does not matter that Velasco does not have the support of the majority bloc for as long as the President would give marching orders for them to elect Velasco based on the “gentleman’s” agreement.
“Knowing the President and his word of honor, I would hope that he now tells both parties, ‘You honor your commitment. Anybody who breaks his commitment, ‘huwag kayong haharap sa akin (do not face me).’ Dito ko makikita ang character ni Presidente (This will test the President’s character),” Atienza told reporters.
Cayetano and Velasco were scheduled to meet with President Duterte at Malacañang last night to resolve their conflict over who should lead the House of Representatives in the remaining 21 months of the 18th Congress.
Based on their agreement, Cayetano was supposed to lead the House for 15 months while Velasco will take the helm for the next 21 months starting next month.
More than 200 congressmen, including those who were allied with Velasco, have signed a manifesto of support for Cayetano’s leadership “and join the President in his desire to allow the membership to chart its own course in choosing those who would lead this chamber.”
Atienza said the manifesto has no bearing because “an agreement is an agreement, a contract is a contract.” Like Velasco, he said Cayetano also did not have the numbers at the beginning, until the President told lawmakers that he would be their speaker.
“At the end of your term, sasabihin mo (you’ll say) ‘I have to 200 now asking me to continue.’ It’s for him (Cayetano) to say, ‘I cannot do that, gentlemen, because I gave my word,’” he said.
In a press briefing last Friday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said while Duterte wishes both parties to honor the agreement, he could not do anything if Velasco does not have the numbers.
Two of Velasco’s party-mates joined the call to cancel the term-sharing deal and let Cayetano lead the House throughout the 18th Congress.
Deputy Speakers Aurelio Gonzales Jr. and Johnny Pimentel, two of Velasco’s fellow Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) members, joined 201 other Representatives in a manifesto declaring their “full and unequivocable support” for Cayetano’s continued Speakership until 2022.
PDP-Laban is the political party of the President which comprises at least 130 out of the 299 members of the current Congress.
Velasco was expected to be by his trusted team in the meeting with the President, including Rep. Kristine Singson of Ilocos Sur to represent Northern Alliance House Members, Deputy Speaker Michael Romero (1-PACMAN) and Rep. Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWWA) of the Party-list Coalition; Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod party-list) from the Visayas bloc; Reps. Mark Enverga of Quezon and Jack Duavit of Rizal, who will represent the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC); and Salvador “Doy” Leachon of Oriental Mindoro who will represent the ruling PDP-Laban with Pimentel.
“The assumption of Cong. Lord Velasco as House Speaker is a realization of the party’s major accomplishment of heading the lower chamber of the Legislative Department simultaneous with the incumbency of party’s honorary chairman Rodrigo Roa Duterte as President of the Republic of the Philippines,” PDP-Laban said a statement.
The ruling PDP-Laban has lost Reps. Xavier Jesus “XJ” Romualdo of Camiguin and Alan Ecleo of Dinagat Islands to the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) which now has 19 regular members and 17 allied party-list groups.
House majority leader Martin Romualdez, Lakas president and deputy majority leader Juan Miguel Arroyo of Pampanga, the party’s vice president for Luzon, administered the oath to Romualdo and Ecleo yesterday afternoon.
“It’s a great pleasure and happiness that we are here today (Tuesday) to report to you that Lakas-CMD party is growing stronger and better every day,” Romualdez said. “Lakas-CMD is gaining momentum in its goal to strengthen its ranks in the House of Representatives.
We will continue this feat in the coming months by strengthening our support for our 19 regular members and 17 party-list allies.”
Romualdo physically attended the oath-taking with Romualdez and Arroyo at the executive lounge of the House while Ecleo joined via Zoom with majority of party members and allies.
Romualdez and Arroyo thanked Lakas-CMD stalwart and House deputy majority leader Wilter Wee Palma II of Zamboanga Sibugay for the recruitment of new party members, calling him as “workhorse of the party.”
Lakas-CMD, under the leadership of Romualdez, has been steadily consolidating its forces in the House since the previous 17th Congress.
Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, Biliran Rep. Gerardo Espina Jr., and Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman took their oath as Lakas-CMD members last December, February, and March, respectively.