Duterte keeps hands off Lower Chamber’s leadership row
Amid speculations of an impending leadership coup in the House of Representatives, Team Velasco has readied its lineup for key positions in the legislative chamber for the anticipated changing of guards that will involve the replacement of incumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, and possibly, Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.
“We are not aware of any coup but we are ready to take over next month. That underscores how strong our faith is in the President’s word – we expect a smooth transition this coming October,” a senior administration lawmaker and key ally of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco said in an exclusive interview.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte will not meddle into the affairs of the House of Representatives. He
stated this after presidential son and Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte confirmed a warning to move to declare the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speakers vacant amid the speakership row.
Requesting anonymity, the Velasco ally told Manila Bulletin that the incoming House management team is trying its best not to respond to press statements attempting to sow intrigue between Cayetano and the Marinduque lawmaker.
He also revealed that the Velasco team is readying a leadership lineup that will observe and respect the tradition of fair and equitable distribution of committee assignments among political parties comprising the majority bloc.
“Congressman Velasco has 101 percent faith in the leadership of President Duterte. The President has spoken and when a gentleman gives his word, expect no ifs and buts to have it broken,” the source from the Velasco camp said.
In his Monday presser, Roque said President Duterte will not get himself involved in the issues of the Lower House.
“The Constitution is clear: Tanging mga miyembro lang ng Kamara de Representante ang pwedeng magdesisyon kung sino ang kanilang magiging leader (Only members of the House of Representatives can decide who will be their leader),” he said.
“We leave that to the members of the House of Representatives,” he added.
This was not the first time the position of the House Speaker became an issue under President Duterte’s watch.
Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was ousted by his colleagues and was replaced by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
It was recalled that in a bid to avert division among his congressional allies as a result of last year’s speakership rivalry, Duterte brokered a term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Velasco.
Under the gentleman’s agreement that Cayetano proposed, he will lead the House as speaker for 15 months while Velasco will take over for the remainder of the 18th Congress. Cayetano will be speaker until the fourth Monday of October, 2020.
A month into the speakership change, allies of the incumbent speaker started issuing press statements aimed at drumming up his accomplishments.
Romualdez, together with Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, backed Cayetano’s continued stay as House leader.
In a recent press statement, Romualdez claimed that Duterte wanted the incumbent House leader to “carry on” with his priority legislative agenda after he was impressed with the performance of the House with Cayetano at the helm.
Barzaga, president of the National Unity Party that nominated Cayetano as speaker, said the House stands to benefit if the term sharing agreement does not push through.
Romualdez’s alleged biases in the speakership controversy makes him a candidate for replacement under a Velasco speakership, the source admitted.
“His statements show he is not willing to work with a speaker other than Cayetano. Trust and confidence will be issues that will have to be considered,” the source said.