Velasco now has backing of House majority, says ally
MANILA, Philippines — An ally of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco on Sunday claimed that the presumptive successor to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano had secured the backing of more than half of the 300-member House of Representatives, which, if true, could upend the battle for the leadership of the chamber.
“One hundred-sixty more or less. The members are now realizing the real state of [the House] and its members,” Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon said when asked by the Inquirer about how many House members had committed to join Velasco’s camp.
The Speaker’s camp, however, could take comfort in the 184-1 vote last Wednesday when the House summarily rejected Cayetano’s offer to resign in what his loyalists characterized as the consummation of the term-sharing deal he had with Velasco. A manifesto was also circulated with 203 members expressing support for the Taguig lawmaker’s continued reign.
But Leachon, a leader of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) who has been championing Velasco’s candidacy, suggested that the situation was now fluid.
He cited a number of factors causing disenchantment in the House, including “issues of inequity of treatment and [a] senselessly vindictive attitude toward those who don’t align with their manner of management.”
“That they want changed. That’s the principal reason why many are starting to jump ship. Not to mention that it’s really the right to do to abide by everyone’s [word of honor],” Leachon said in a Viber message.
Leachon warned Cayetano of “unnoticed growing resentment” in the majority coalition as a result of the House power struggle compounded by dissatisfaction with the inequitable allocation of funds in the 2021 budget.
Leachon said the House leadership’s “repressively draconian stunts,” including the unceremonious ouster of 1-Pacman Rep. Michael Romero as deputy speaker on Friday, were causing disharmony in the 300-member chamber.
“Worse, if these would carelessly persist, the unnoticed growing resentment among congressmen, particularly on the issue of their immensely inequitable district budget allocation, might later be blown out of proportion to the detriment of the ongoing budget deliberation,” he told the Inquirer in a Viber message.
It could stain the image of the House of Representatives, said Leachon, who also lost his post as deputy speaker in March for backing Velasco in an alleged ouster plot against Cayetano.
But Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. said Velasco’s camp should “move on” from the term-sharing deal, arguing that the incumbent Speaker was given fresh mandate when the House voted 184-1 to reject his offer of resignation last week.
“It’s time for Velasco and his misguided bunch to face reality, move on and work with the House leadership under Speaker Alan (Cayetano) as this issue has already been resolved,” Villafuerte said in a statement.
He said the Sept. 30 vote “already sent a loud and clear message that this issue is already over as most of our peers want a status quo on the activist House leadership that has nurtured a principled partnership with the Duterte administration.”
The Camarines Sur lawmaker noted presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement quoting President Duterte as saying he was adopting a hands-off policy toward the chamber’s “internal matter.”
But Leachon insisted that the turnover should still happen on Oct. 14, the date agreed upon by Velasco and Cayetano during their meeting in Malacañang last week.
“On the brighter side, however, we are hopeful still that the current leadership in their self-reflection will lead them to realize that our congressmen’s shared constitutional duty goes beyond our unilateral grip [on] power,” Leachon said.
He said Velasco, despite the bitter exchanges with the Speaker’s camp, “would like to extend gratefulness to Speaker Cayetano for having a commendable stint as Speaker and assure him that no shake-up in committee chairmanships would thereafter happen.”
But the leadership change must still happen, he said.
“Ultimately, for the mutual cooperation and in deference to the Office of the President, we expect Speaker Cayetano to resign on Oct. 14 and hand over the authority to Congressman Velasco, with both of them exhibiting the true traits of gentlemen,” Leachon said.
Also on Sunday, another Cayetano critic, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, claimed that the Speaker was “losing his grip and influence” in the chamber for refusing to honor the term-sharing agreement.
“Alan (Cayetano) has lost a lot of support,” Atienza said.
Cayetano is a member of the Nacionalista Party, and he also counts the National Unity Party, Lakas-CMD, Liberal Party and even the minority bloc among his allies.
But Atienza said he was sure Velasco would be able to muster the numbers against Cayetano with the backing of his party, PDP-Laban.
Velasco also has the support of the Nationalist People’s Coalition and the party list bloc, which is headed by Romero, a Velasco ally.
“All he (Velasco) has to do is call the smaller groups,” Atienza said. INQ
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