Velasco: I have worked quietly, away from publicity
MANILA, Philippines — Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday asserted that he is not backing out from the term-sharing agreement as he countered allegations of being mute on issues and inactive in the House of Representatives during the first 15 months of the 18th Congress.
In a Facebook post, he said he worked “quietly” and “away from publicity” to support the Duterte administration and its legislative agenda, firing back against allegations that he was mum on issues and did not contribute to the lower chamber’s work.
“Since I became a lawmaker I have worked quietly, away from publicity, to support this Administration and help accomplish the legislative agenda of President Duterte to improve the lives of the Filipino people,” he said.
I have been silent during the duration of the Gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker. …
He added that his silence on issues, especially on the speakership row between him and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, does not mean he is “disinterested” or have turned back on the agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte himself.
In July 2019, Duterte, Cayetano, and Velasco struck a so-called gentleman’s pact wherein Cayetano would serve as House Speaker in the first 15 months of the 18th Congress – or until October 2020 – while Velasco would succeed him to serve for the remaining 21 months under a term-sharing agreement.
If this is to be followed, Cayetano’s term would end next month.
“I have been silent during the duration of the Gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker. My silence does not mean I am disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant,” he said.
“‘Mum on issues’ means I just don’t want to call attention to myself. Being party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time,” Velasco added.
Deputy Speaker for Finance Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. earlier revealed that a “supermajority” of lawmakers want Cayetano to remain as the lower chamber’s leader instead of Velasco.
He claimed that Velasco has not been vocal nor active in any major issue that hounded the House of Representatives.
Should the President let congressmen resolve the House speakership row, Villafuerte said he believes Velasco will not stand a chance in terms of numbers.
“With all due respect to Congressman Lord, ever since that there was an announcement of 15-21 (term-sharing), he was never really active in Congress,” he said.
Velasco should have partnered with Cayetano when he was declared as successor to the Taguig-Pateros representative and Duterte running mate in the 2016 elections, Villafuerte noted.
“I haven’t seen or heard Congressman Lord be active in any major issue. We don’t see him in Congress. It was really his choice not to be the presumptive speaker. The congressmen now are saying we’d rather let Speaker Alan continue because he’s active, he performs, he’s qualified, these are the general sentiments of congressmen,” he said.
Meanwhile, Capiz 2nd Dist. Rep. Fredenil Castro claimed Velasco did not “work, contribute, lead” the House of Representatives, especially in the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, thus he cannot expect lawmakers to follow him in his bid for the speakership.
“He did not work, he did not contribute, he did not defend this House, he did not lead. So why expect us to follow him?” he said during his privilege speech on Tuesday’s session.
“It was his mistake to think that he could just do nothing in 15 months and then just one day appear in Congress to claim the speakership as if it was his birthright,” he added.
Issues on the speakership agreement resurfaced after presidential son and Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte threatened to declare as vacant the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speakers amid the ongoing speakership row fueled by the “disparity” in infrastructure budget allocations to their respective districts.
However, this did not materialize on Monday as the House session ended early.
The whole issue began when Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves, Jr. questioned the Department of Public Works and Highwways’ distribution of funds among congressional districts, particularly the shares allotted for the districts of Cayetano and Villafuerte.
Cayetano has accused Velasco of being involved not only in the recent plot to unseat him but also on previous coup attempts.
Cayetano said this has been the third or fourth coup attempt against him plotted by Velasco and his allies since he assumed the speakership in 2019.
“I think, pangatlo, pang-apat na coup attempt na nila ‘to eh. Tingin ata nila na padamihan ng attempt at, finally, kapag maraming attempt, makukuha nila,” he said.
Cayetano, however, said he is willing to step down from his post if House members no longer want him as their leader.
“But you know, as I said, once na hindi na ako gusto, whether it’s by the coalition or by the President, hindi na nila kailangan ako i-coup d’etat e, usap lang ‘yan,” he said.
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