By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Oriental Mindoro first district Rep. Doy Leachon dared Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur second district Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Sunday, to name the more than 20 House members who were allegedly offered by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco committee chairmanships and extra-budgetary allocations in exchange for supporting his assumption as Speaker ahead of the 15-21 term-sharing leadership change in October this year.
He said Villafuerte should substantiate his claims that Velasco was engaged in treacherous schemes to oust Cayetano.
“Produce the names of those House members who were allegedly enticed with chairmanship position. Because that’s not true. I’ve been with Cong. Velasco almost everyday and there’s not even single moment that such alleged offer was ever made to anybody,” he said in a statement.
“We are House members and as such, we are expected to maintain on ourselves our presumptive integrity to adhere on the existence of common knowledge among us particularly the term-sharing agreement especially so that it was reached no less than before the President’s presence and intercession. Thus, Cong. Velasco is surely man enough to follow and similarly, I likewise believe on Speaker’s pronouncement that he would also honor the agreement”, he added.
Leachon, who heads the House contingent to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), said it would be better for Villafuerte “to shut your mouth.”
“His words, apart from being cheap, are extremely foul and below-the-belt and therefore, unfit as statements to be uttered by any Member of Congress,” he said.
Villafuerte’s earlier statement that Velasco was bereft of the gravitas, track record and experience in public office to replace Cayetano also did not sit well with Leachon.
“For the record, Cong. LRay doesn’t know what he’s saying. Cong. Lord Velasco rose from being a provincial administrator to be a third-termer Congressman of Marinduque trouncing the 50-year old rule of (the) Reyes dynasty. And because of his performance as felt by the people of his province, his father who is former Supreme Court Justice Presbitero Velasco was also elected Governor in the 2019 election and so with his mother, who was also voted as a town mayor. Cong. Lord, who’s also a lawyer, started it all, and has chaired twice the committee on energy unlike Cong. LRay, who just inherited his political position from his father, former Cong. Luis Villafuerte”, he said.
Leachon even accused Villafuerte of abusing “your cling to House leadership to advance your personal interest”.
The House leader alleged that Villafuerte had almost P10 billion in alleged “pork insertions” in the 2020 General Appropriations Act, including the more than P500 million for the construction of the provincial capitol building in Camarines Sur benefitting his son Governor Miguel Luis Villafuerte.
Leachon also took a swipe at Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo for his “bias” and taking sides.
“While this a chamber of free expression, statements made must not be to sow insinuation and hatred among membership to propagate divisiveness in the Lower House”, he said.
In a statement, Salo launched a tirade against BUHAY party-list Rep. Lito Atienza for claiming that Cayetano had merely concocted a plot to oust him from the top House leadership post.
“Atienza apparently has nothing better left to do aside from always questioning the supposed lack of a quorum during House sessions that he has resorted to making wild claims against the Speaker,” he said.
“How can Mr. No Quorum claim that the Speaker merely made up the coup plot when no less than 20 congressmen approached and informed the Speaker about Velasco’s moves to topple him? he added.
Salo also criticized Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles for saying that an ouster plot against Cayetano makes no sense since Velasco will take over the Speaker in October this year.
He said the plan to oust Cayetano is real as confirmed to him by several lawmakers .
“Nograles even had the gall to say that the public should be assured that the House is focused on passing laws and not playing politics. For his information, the House has long been working double-time to pass President Duterte’s priority measures under Cayetano’s leadership. It is Velasco’s camp that is bent on sowing division among the House members by attempting to oust the Speaker,” Salo said.
“Isn’t it appalling that even the national budget is being used by Velasco as a means to advance his personal interests?” Salo added.
Salo also asked former Negros Occidental Congressman Alfredo Benitez to refrain from involving himself in the issues concerning the Lower Chamber.
“His statements do not reflect the stand of my fellow lawmakers belonging to the Visayas bloc. If, as Mr. Benitez claims he and his allies will stand by the term-sharing agreement, then how come it is his name that has surfaced as among those working to get Velasco’s coup plot to succeed?” Salo said.