Battle for speakership seen turning ugly
MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s allies at Nacionalista Party (NP) and National Unity Party (NUP) took turns attacking his presumptive successor, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, on Friday, signaling what could be another ugly and protracted speakership battle at the House of Representatives.
Cayetano’s allies blasted Velasco of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) for allegedly hatching an ouster plot months before the latter was supposed to assume leadership of the 302-member chamber under their term-sharing deal.
The Speaker’s NP ally, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., questioned Velasco’s character, reiterating the Speaker’s accusation that he had attempted to recruit supporters in exchange for committee chairmanships and extra budgetary allocations.
“That he is not man enough to take responsibility for his pathetic action after its failure speaks volumes of the flawed character and lack of credibility of Representative Velasco who, in the first place, is bereft of the gravitas, track record and experience in public office to replace Speaker Alan at the helm of the bigger chamber,” Villafuerte said.
Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno, vice chair of NUP, which is allied with Cayetano’s NP, said the party was worried about the implications of Velasco’s alleged actions.
“We are concerned, of course, since the alleged maneuverings, if true, come well before Speaker Cayetano’s 15 months are up, and seem to be in defiance of the term-sharing agreement,” he told the Inquirer.
“NUP remains committed to the leadership of Speaker Cayetano,” Puno said.
Under the terms of the “gentleman’s agreement” between the two lawmakers, Cayetano will only serve as Speaker for 15 months with Velasco taking over for the remaining 21 months.
The turnover is supposed to take place in October.
But that deal could be in jeopardy after Cayetano accused Velasco of maneuvering to oust him, based on information he said he received from at least 20 colleagues. He said his rival was using the controversy over the 2020 national budget and the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN to discredit his leadership.
But Velasco denied the claims, saying there was no truth to it and that he intended to keep his end of the bargain.
Velasco’s PDP-Laban party, meanwhile, sought to douse Cayetano’s allegations, saying the ruling party had no interest in prematurely ending its deal with the Speaker.
“Congressman Velasco is not in a rush to become the Speaker. It is just a few months away so it doesn’t make any sense if we do something that will just break the peace,” said Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, spokesperson for PDP-Laban.
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