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No ‘ouster’ in House’s Monday session: Cayetano keeps speakership post

/ 04:20 PM September 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The alleged move to declare leadership posts in the House of Representatives vacant—including that of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano—did not come to fruition, with Monday’s session barely lasting for 20 minutes.

All eyes were on the lower chamber after news broke out that presidential son and House Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte was intending to declare leadership posts in the lower chamber vacant as some congressmen argued over the proposed 2021 national budget.

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The alleged move was supposed to happen during Monday’s session but it did not come about.

Following the roll call of members, the lower chamber read several bills for first reading. But right after the reading of the bills, the session was suspended until Tuesday, September 22.

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Monday’s session only lasted for 18 minutes—and it ended without any move to declare the House’s leadership posts vacant.

Ouster?

In a text message that spread over the weekend, Duterte supposedly said in a Viber group of congressmen that he would “ask the Mindanao bloc to declare the seat of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers vacant” this Monday so that the region would not “die” for lack of budget amid the lawmakers’ disagreements.

“I am also encouraging the minority,” Duterte added.

In a statement released Sunday, Duterte said the text message was just an expression of his “personal dismay” upon learning of the trading of barbs in the lower chamber.

“Over the past days, quite a number of lawmakers have called me as they expressed their disappointment and consternation over the fate of their respective allocations and budgets from the hands of the current House leadership,” Duterte said.

“Although I am an ex officio member being a Deputy Speaker, I have respectfully and clearly told them that their concern is something that I would rather stay away from — out of delicadeza because my father is the President,” he added.

Duterte, however, reiterated that he does not want to get involved in the issue.

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“Now as Congress continues to be hounded by the issue of budget — something that finds its way up to the current House leadership, how it treats its members, how it approves allocations and budgets with fairness or lack of it — let me reiterate my position. I do not want to get involved, however, I wish to help my fellow lawmakers find answers to their questions or remedies to the budget that they proposed for their people,” Duterte said.

“I could only hope that Congress and its members will be able to resolve this issue before everything goes out of hand before it could bludgeon the credibility of the institutions and inflict damage beyond repair,” he added.

In an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel hours before Monday’s session, ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap, a close ally of Duterte, said that Duterte never said he would personally declare the leadership posts vacant.

“‘Yung sinabi niya is parang sinasabi niya sa mga members na kung kayo nagrereklamo, hindi kayo masaya sa leadership, edi kayo mag-declare ng vacancy sa leadership. Ang stand niya from the start is pagdating sa budget, ayaw niya makialam,” Yap said.

(What he said is that if there are congressmen who want to complain and are not happy with the leadership, then they should declare the leadership posts vacant. His stand from the start when it comes to the budget is that he doesn’t want to meddle.)

“Never naman niyang sinabi na he will declare. Ang sabi niya, he will ask the Mindanao bloc kung may reklamo sila, then sila mag-declare kasi siya, wala naman siyang reklamo dahil hindi siya nakikialam sa budget eh,” he added.

(He never said that he will declare the posts vacant. What he said was he will ask the Mindanao bloc if they have issues, they can declare the vacancy.)

In the same interview, Yap was asked if he can categorically state that there would be no leadership change or a coup in the lower chamber.

“Ito po, opinyon ko lang ito pero I have 99.9 percent feeling na talagang si Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano pa rin ang magiging Speaker namin dahil wala namang problema sa pamamalakad niya so ‘yung ibang mga  parochial concerns ng mga congressman, we try to address that,” Yap said.

(This is my opinion. I am 99.9 percent confident that Speaker Cayetano will still be the Speaker. We have no problems with his leadership. There are other parochial concerns with congressmen, we try to address that.)

Budget woes

The fiasco began during the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget briefing before the House appropriations panel when Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves, Jr. questioned the distribution of funds between congressional districts, particularly those of Cayetano and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte in Taguig City and Camarines Sur, respectively.

This led to Teves and Villafuerte firing back allegations against each other, to the point that the two congressmen had a heated argument over Viber.

In an interview with INQUIRER.net, Teves even challenged Villafuerte to a fistfight.

“Sabihin mo kung gusto niya makipagsuntukan, suntukan kami kahit saan. Kahit doon pa sa plenary, puro siya salita,” Teves said.

The recent arguments over the proposed 2021 national budget have led many to question if this is related to the term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

To recall, in July 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte said Cayetano would serve as House Speaker in the first 15 months of the 18th Congress while Velasco would succeed to serve for the remaining 21 months under a term-sharing agreement.

If this is to be followed, Cayetano’s term would end in October this year.

In February, Cayetano claimed that Velasco is promising chairmanship and budget allocation to members of the lower chamber, saying that he received “verified” information regarding an “attempt” to oust him as Speaker.

Velasco denied the alleged plan to oust Cayetano, saying the reports regarding the issue were “baseless”.

Velasco also said that he is honoring the term-sharing deal. [ac]

READ: Velasco dangles budget, chairmanship to congressmen – Cayetano

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Paolo Duterte
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