‘Pulong’ to host caucus among peers Monday; speakership dispute could still be up in the air

Published July 19, 2019, 6:01 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Ben Rosario 

Speculations of a move to thwart the election of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano as Speaker of the 18th Congress pervaded the air in the House of Representatives following the confirmation of reports that presidential son and neophyte Davao City Rep. Paolo “Pulong” Duterte will be holding a caucus with some peers before a new speaker is chosen on Monday.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (AP Photo/Aaron Favila / MANILA BULLETIN)
Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano
(AP / Aaron Favila / MANILA BULLETIN)

Cayetano had also reportedly invited congressmen to a separate breakfast caucus almost simultaneously with the Pulong-sponsored meeting.

These developed as a manifesto of support for the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has also been making the rounds among congressmen, thus, further causing ramblings in the Lower Chamber.

“I don’t think there’s a need for such manifesto if congressmen would only heed the president’s endorsement of Cayetano as the next speaker,” said a veteran administration solon who requested anonymity.

The manifesto was said to have come from the Duterte Coalition (DC), which Rep. Duterte formed with the help of congressmen belonging to Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), a group headed by his sister, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

The DC has declared it will field Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab for Speaker.

Anak Kalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, a staunch supporter of Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, disclosed that he would be attending the Duterte-sponsored breakfast which is set to be held two hours before Monday’s opening of the 18th Congress.

Defensor said he will also drop by the Cayetano-sponsored caucus.

Cayetano’s speakership bid has been endorsed by President Duterte, who also backed a 15-21 month term sharing agreement between Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

Under Duterte’s proposal, Romualdez will be the majority leader.

But as far as Rep. Duterte is concerned, the speakership race remained far from being resolved despite his father’s pronouncements.

The president later clarified that his endorsement of the three possible House officials will have to be ratified by congressmen when they elect their leaders on Monday.

Meanwhile, opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman (LP, Albay) downplayed reports of a move to prevent Cayetano from becoming the speaker.

“Considering that the members of the supermajority coalition are allied with President Rodrigo Duterte, the possibility of a coup from allies to subvert the President’s anointment of presumptive Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is nil,” said Lagman, in a statement.

Lagman is expected to run for the speakership but would be eyeing the leadership of the minority bloc.

This move has been rejected by Malacanang allies in the Lower House, who have declared support for the assumption of Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro of the minority leadership.

Lagman assailed the alleged plan to elect a pro-administration lawmaker to become the voice of the minority bloc, saying that an end to the practice of forming a “company union” in the Lower Chamber should be initiated by Cayetano.

“After the two most important positions of Speaker and Majority Leader have been settled even before a single vote is cast in the Plenary, what is of urgency is the recognition of the third most important position, that of an authentic, credible and responsible Minority Leader from the ranks of the true opposition,” said the opposition leader.

In reaction, Castro pointed out that there was nothing wrong if a minority leader “admires the president”.

“Being a minority leader does not mean you have to be an oppositionist. You just need to be a critical collaborator but not a destructive collaborator,” explained Castro.