Cayetano seeks help of rivals for Speaker
In a show of unity after a hard-fought campaign, the three top candidates for the House leadership finally met face-to-face on Thursday night with presumptive Speaker and Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano offering to join forces with his rivals for a smooth transition of power.
The former foreign secretary discussed his plans with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, with whom he would share the speakership under a deal brokered by President Duterte, and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, who had agreed to be their majority leader.
“We will do this together as [Romualdez] will keep reminding me. I promised always Congressman Velasco that we would talk, and then the three of us, so that we could join forces,” said Cayetano, who was Mr. Duterte’s running mate in the 2016 elections.
“I only have 15 months with you, so I will ask you to help me in the same way that you help your constituents. It’s not enough that you vote for me on July 22, 2019, I hope you will join me and stay with me for the next 15 months,” he said, addressing 40 lawmakers at a private dinner.
‘Stay beside me, not behind’
“Let’s make it a very exciting journey. I hope you stay beside me and not behind me,” Cayetano said.
The dinner held at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City and livestreamed on Facebook was the first time all three candidates met since Mr. Duterte endorsed the term-sharing deal between Cayetano and Velasco on Monday.
A fourth candidate, however, was missing—Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, who was announced as the bet of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago party of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, and the newly formed Duterte Coalition led by Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte.
Row not over
The younger Duterte was also a no-show. He earlier said the speakership row was not over, hinting of a looming coup, but his father, the President, rebuffed the suggestion, calling it “wishful thinking.”
The deal would allow Cayetano to serve as Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, with Velasco taking over in the last 21 months of the three-year term.
Cayetano said a caucus of the House majority bloc would be held next week to thresh out organizational matters, including the assignment of prized House positions, especially deputy speakerships and committee chairmanships.
He earlier implored his colleagues to retain all House leadership positions, save for the Speaker and House accounts chair, once Cayetano’s 15 months as Speaker had ended.
The House will elect the new Speaker at the opening of the 18th Congress on July 22.
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