From quiet Marinduque to raucous speakership trek: Who is Lord Allan Velasco?
MANILA, Philippines — Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco has been making headlines over the past few weeks mainly due to his speakership row with Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano that has been hounding the House of Representatives – with even the proposed 2021 national budget seemingly caught in the crossfire.
On Monday, however, a surprise turning point unraveled when Velasco’s allies finally pulled the trigger to eject Cayetano from the House leadership and subsequently install Velasco as the new Speaker of the House in a session held at the Celebrity Sports Complex in Quezon City.
One hundred eighty-six (186) lawmakers “elected” Velasco to the Speaker post although Cayetano insisted that what transpired outside the halls of the Batasang Pambansa was illegal, calling it a sham.
But who is Velasco, a young politician hailing from a relatively quiet province of Marinduque?
For starters, politics is in his blood. His father, Presbitero Jose Velasco, Jr. – a former Supreme Court Associate Justice, is the incumbent governor of Marinduque while his mother, Lorna Quinto Velasco, is the current mayor of the province’s Torrijos town.
Like his father, Velasco is also a lawyer by profession. He earned his degree in Bachelor of Science in Business Management from De La Salle University before obtaining his law degree from the University of Santo Tomas.
“I studied law, I was a working student because I was working for my dad during that time. Didn’t have plans in running for politics,” Velasco said in a 2019 interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
Before entering the world of politics, Velasco served as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) President of Marinduque as well as administrator of the province under former Governor Jose Antonio Carrion.
As the Provincial Administrator of Marinduque, Velasco headed the Provincial Tourism Council and “undertook projects to promote the province as a haven for sports adventure and community-based Tourism”, according to his website.
It was in 2010 when Velasco was elected as Marinduque representative, beating Edmundo Reyes from the ruling Reyes family by a slim 4,000 votes.
Velasco ran again for a congressional post in 2013 but lost to Regina Ongslako Reyes in another close vote. However, Velasco contested this on the basis of Reyes’ citizenship and his petition was upheld by the Supreme Court – leading to his proclamation as Marinduque representative in February 2016.
The Marinduque lawmaker ran again in 2016 and 2019 beating Regina Ongslako Reyes and Harold Lim, respectively.
Ties that bind
In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel before the term-sharing deal was announced in 2019, Velasco did not hide his family’s closeness to President Rodrigo Duterte’s family. This even got to a point when Duterte celebrated his first Christmas as the nation’s top leader with the Velasco family.
Velasco said that it was Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles who introduced him to Duterte.
“We met him, we got off, it was a good meeting and then from then we just got close,” Velasco said.
Velasco also admitted being close to presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. According to him, his closeness with Sara started when he hosted sorties for Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP). Sara is the chairperson of the regional political party.
This relationship became apparent during a meeting between the presidential daughter and Velasco on October 9.
Sara said in a statement that Velasco sought her help in securing the votes of three HNP congressmen from the Davao region in his speakership bid. In response, the Davao City mayor said HNP is backing the fulfillment of the speakership term-sharing agreement that was brokered by his father in 2019.
There were also rumors that Sara made moves to ensure that the term-sharing deal will be followed. But Velasco denied this, saying the extent of the presidential daughter’s help to him in his speakership bid was only limited to their meeting.
In July 2019, President Duterte announced that the speakership at the House of Representatives would be shared between Cayetano and Velasco.
Under the gentleman’s agreement, Cayetano would serve as Speaker in the first 15 months while Velasco would succeed him to serve for the remaining 21 months of the 18th Congress.
But the months leading to the speakership transition was not a smooth period for Velasco, who was accused of spearheading an ouster plot against Cayetano.
In February 2020, Cayetano claimed that Velasco is promising chairmanship and budget allocation to members of the lower legislative body, 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.”
A supposed ouster scheme resurfaced in September, during deliberations on the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways. Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves, Jr., an ally of Velasco, questioned the distribution of infrastructure funds between congressional districts, particularly allocations for the districts of Cayetano and Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte.
Ensuing arguments over the proposed 2021 national budget have led many to question if this is related to the speakership term-sharing deal. The leadership squabble escalated that the President had to intervene and hold a meeting with Cayetano and Velasco to purportedly settle the matter. By the end of the talk, news broke that Velasco would take over as Speaker on October 14.
Cayetano offered to resign on September 30 but it was rejected by the majority of the House members. The Taguig-Pateros lawmaker’s allies claimed this rejection manifested the House members’ support of Cayetano’s continued leadership.
Days leading to Velasco’s election as new Speaker was nothing short of dramatic – with House sessions being abruptly suspended by Cayetano and his allies on October 6, allegedly endangering the timely passage of the 2021 national budget, and manifestos being passed around as both camps rally for numbers.
Nevertheless, in his victory speech Monday, Velasco said that under his leadership, the House will pass laws that are responsive to the needs of Filipinos here and abroad. He also pledged legislation that would focus on jobs generation, the economy, healthcare, food security, peace and order, and clean sustainable energy.
“And most of all, today’s events would ensure that the President’s call for a timely, legal and constitutional approval of the 2021 budget will be complied with,” he stressed.
For Velasco, October 12 was the culmination of the drawn-out speakership struggle.