Palace: Duterte won’t interfere in House rivalry
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano addressed his rival and presumptive successor, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, on Monday night, saying the latter need not worry about losing the speakership “if that is really what the President wants.”
But presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing, “The President does not really interfere in the intramurals inside Congress. I think whatever controversy it has now, it’s being resolved.”
“Don’t be scared that you won’t be the Speaker if that is really what the President wants. [Mr. Duterte] is the head of our coalition. [The leadership change] will happen. That’s that,” Cayetano said in an interview with reporters.
The Taguig lawmaker met his allies from his Nacionalista Party (NP) and the National Unity Party (NUP) on Monday night, since accusing Velasco of trying to unseat him last week.
Explaining what they discussed, Cayetano said: “Basically, it’s simple. They like the direction. They like the reforms. I’m here to continue to serve. Now, if they do not want that, they are free to remove me.”
The Speaker also dared his rival to make a pledge to retain all the ranking House leaders in their posts to belie the allegation that he was promising chairmanships to his own supporters.
“So that’s my challenge to him (Velasco): Go on record saying that only the two of us will switch places, all the other chairmen will stay. The problem is he’ll lose some of his support,” he said.
Earlier Monday, the Cayetano-led majority installed two of his allies in key House positions, including the powerful appropriations panel headed previously by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, who was replaced by Rep. Eric Yap of the ACT-CIS party list, a close friend of the President’s son, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte.
Velasco, who earlier denied the Speaker’s accusation of orchestrating an ouster plot, did not respond publicly to the House leader’s provocations.
On social media, however, he made his own power move by posting photos with the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who in 2018 helped then Pampanga Rep. and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unseat then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in a coup.
His supporter, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, who was stripped of the chairmanship of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, blasted Cayetano’s allies for the “multi-billion loss of PDP-[Laban]’s voice in this Congress” and the “probable and eventual dishonor of the term-sharing agreement.”
Panelo, in his briefing said, “Even if they have intramurals there, if all of them are allies of the President, there’s no crack. There will be a crack if those fighting each other says they are not for the President.”
—With a report from Julie M. Aurelio
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