SPEAKER Lord Allan Velasco will continue to weed out allies of former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano who are occupying plum posts at the House of Representatives if they fail to live up to the standards of the new leadership.
Velasco said he will assess the performance of the different House committees and their chairmen while Congress is on Halloween break and determine whether or not they should stay or be replaced.
“During the recess, I would evaluate actually some of the posts in the committees and see if they are still performing or they need to be changed,” Velasco told ANC. “There are some posts that really need change mainly because some of the posts require the trust and confidence of the Speaker.”
The new House leader is going ahead with his decision despite the appeal of Cayetano that the new leadership spare the committee chairmen and allow them to continue their work in the aftermath of last week’s coup.
Velasco said he is not launching a witch-hunt to go after Cayetano’s allies who attacked him during the speakership fight, pointing out that he has not really changed the composition of the House.
“I still have to evaluate each and every member’s post and their performance. I’m not attacking anyone,” said the Marinduque lawmaker, who is also a lawyer like his predecessor.
The new House leadership last week removed as deputy speaker Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte and replaced him with 1PACMAN party-list Rep. Michael Romero, who was earlier booted out of the post by the former leadership for being a Velasco supporter.
Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino, another close Cayetano ally, was also replaced by presidential son Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte as chair of the House committee on accounts, which handles the budget and finances of the House.
Cayetano earlier said that in the same way that Velasco has been prodding him to honor their term-sharing agreement, the new Speaker should also stick to his word that no major realignments will be made under his leadership.
He particularly reminded Velasco of his promise to President Duterte that committee chairmen will not be replaced to avoid any disruption in passing the 2021 national budget and ensure continuity.
While Velasco admitted that only the Speaker and the chairman of the committee of accounts were supposed to be replaced under the term-sharing agreement, he said the covenant had already been scuttled by Cayetano when he refused to step down and honor their gentleman’s agreement.
“First of all, the palabra de honor (word of honor) that he’s asking for has been broken by him. He broke our term-sharing agreement four times,” said the new House leader who was elected by 186 lawmakers.
Nevertheless, Velasco said he never insisted on replacing majority leader Martin Romualdez who was part of the term-sharing agreement which was brokered by President Duterte last year.
Velasco also said he had wanted Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab to replace ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap as chair of the committee on appropriations which reviews the annual proposed national budget but eventually decided against it.
SPOILS OF WAR
Velasco said Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, the son of former president and speaker Gloria Arroyo, will get the chairmanship of the energy panel which he formerly chaired, while he is studying which panel will be given to former minority leader Bienvenido Abante of Manila who had already joined the majority bloc.
Abante was replaced as minority leader by Abang Lingkod party-list Rep. Stephen Paduano.
Velasco said he could not keep Villafuerte, a trusted Cayetano lieutenant who repeatedly attacked him in the middle of the speakership fight, as a deputy speaker because the position requires the “speaker’s confidence.”
He said he would personally offer Cayetano the deputy speakership post as a sign of respect and reconciliation so “if he would allow (it), I would like to talk to him again.”
Likewise, Velasco credited presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte for helping him wrest power from Cayetano.
“I believe Mayor Sara really has a lot of influence not only in Congress but in a lot of areas also. With her party Hugpong ng Pagbabago joining or endorsing my speakership, definitely
I believe it was a tipping point,” Velasco said, stressing that he has been urging Sara to run for president in 2022.
In a separate interview with GMA News, Velasco said: “Sa tingin ko malaking tulong din po talaga si Mayor Sara Duterte. Alam naman po natin ‘ang impluwensya na meron po si Ma’am Sara (I think Mayor Sara was a huge help. We all know how influential Ma’am Sara is.”
The Davao City mayor was also behind the coup in the 17th Congress that unseated then speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and catapulted Mrs. Arroyo to the speaker’s post.
Despite his closeness to the presidential daughter, Velasco said the House will be “very independent,” especially since the President is not really know for dipping his hands in legislative affairs to give lawmakers a freehand to do their work.
He said the Executive will not be able to influence the House under his leadership if an investigation on a particular issue will be undertaken.