House regional blocs vow support for Cayetano’s speakership
MANILA, Philippines — The various regional blocs in the House of Representatives reaffirmed their full support over the weekend for Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano following reports of a failed attempt by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to oust him from his post.
Deputy Speaker Deogracias Victor Savellano, representing the Northern Alliance in the House, said the group’s 24 members stood solidly behind Cayetano.
“The Northern Alliance fully supports Speaker Alan and the reforms he is implementing to further improve the House as an institution. We are 100 percent behind Speaker Alan,” Savellano said.
Savellano pointed out that it was only during Cayetano’s term when the House was able to focus its energies on urgent legislative matters, which resulted in the early passage of a pork-free national budget and the approval of President Duterte’s economic and tax reform measures.
Batangas 1st District Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain also pledged the support of the Southern Tagalog solons in the House for Cayetano’s speakership.
The Southern Tagalog alliance is composed of lawmakers from the Calabarzon Region (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Aurora, and Palawan.
“We need a compassionate leader like Speaker Alan in the House,” said Ermita-Buhain, who chairs the House Committee on Southern Tagalog Development. “His swift response to the needs of the communities affected by the eruption of Taal volcano brought him closer to the people of our province. The Southern Tagalog alliance will continue to support Speaker Alan.”
The Mindanao lawmakers in the House also said they would continue to back Cayetano as Speaker.
Deputy Speaker Rep. Henry Oaminal of the 2nd District of Misamis Occidental said: “The Mindanao bloc remains, and will always be, supportive of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his transformative leadership.”
Over 50 lawmakers make up the Mindanao bloc in the House.
“Mindanao has never been left behind under the leadership of Speaker Alan. Mindanao will always remember the time when earthquake victims were able to receive financial help from individual members of the House upon the initiative of Speaker Alan, who encouraged them to donate part of their salaries to help our kababayans in Mindanao in their time of distress,” Oaminal said, referring to the period last year when parts of Mindanao suffered a series of strong earthquakes.
The 48-strong Visayas bloc, represented by Cebu 5th District Rep. Vincent Franco Frasco, was the first to rally behind Cayetano’s leadership in the House.
Frasco, who chairs the House Committee on Visayas Development, said: “The Visayas bloc remains fully supportive of Speaker Alan, who has demonstrated the kind of leadership, dedication, and service to the people that we need to restore the public’s trust and confidence in the House of Representatives.”
Reports surfaced last week of an alleged plot by Velasco to oust Cayetano as Speaker. Cayetano said at least 20 representatives confirmed the coup try, with Velasco allegedly offering committee chairmanships and hefty budgetary allocations for projects in legislative districts to woo legislators to his side.
On learning of this scheme, Cayetano said that the national budget “should never be corrupted or be a source of pork, nor should be treated as spoils to be divided among cronies.”
According to the Speaker, he believes that “most members of Congress see and appreciate” the reforms that he stands for.
“If they do, then I will continue to serve as their Speaker. If they don’t, then they can remove me, I will continue to serve as the Representative of Taguig and Pateros. I will continue the lonely fight with whoever will join me,” Cayetano said.
Under a term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Velasco that was endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte last year, Cayetano will serve as Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, while Velasco will follow by the end of this period to serve the remaining 21 months.
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