202 House members want Cayetano to remain Speaker

At least 202 members of the House of Representatives have expressed their desire to have Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano remain as Speaker for the remainder of the 18th Congress.

This was learned by the Manila Bulletin via a five-page manifesto of support for Cayetano, which was received Sunday night.

The document which reportedly made the rounds in the 299-member chamber is titled "Manifesto of recommitment to the Filipino people and the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano."

"In this trying times, as the nation is being wracked by an unprecedented public health and economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we reiterate our continued full and unequivocal support for Speaker Cayetano and the entire leadership of the House, and join the President in his desire to allow the membership to chart its own course in choosing those who would lead this chamber," the manifesto read.

"The burden of leadership comes with certain privileges, among which is the honor to represent our fellow citizens in matters of public importance. But with this also comes the challenge of living up to the high standards of our countrymen. And in this, we the members of the Duterte administration Super Majority Coalition in the 18th Congress, now come together and pledge our commitment to the continued leadership of Speaker Cayetano as we strive to always put the best interest of the Filipino ahead at all times," it added.

Affixed to the document were the signatures of 26 top leaders in the House as well as leaders of major blocs and parties.

A highly-reliable source bared that the 26 signatures were among the 202 House members who have backed Cayetano's continued stay at the helm in the Lower Chamber.

Cayetano has a term-sharing deal with Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) stalwart, Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco. The latter was supposed to take over the Speakership from Cayetano this November.

But very indicative of Velasco's in-party support--or lack thereof--is the inclusion of Deputy Speakers Johnny Pimentel and Aurelio Gonzales Jr. among the signatories. Pimentel and Gonzales are among the two highest-ranked PDP-Laban members in the House.

Thirteen other Deputy Speakers signed the manifesto.

Also signifying their support to the current Speaker were House Majority Leader and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats President, Martin Romualdez; Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr.; National Unity Party (NUP) President, Rep. Elpidio Barzaga; and Deputy Minority Leader and Liberal Party (LP) Secretary-General, Jose Christopher Belmonte.

Several Visayas and Mindanao bloc representatives also signed the document.

The 202 total signatories have essentially "coup-proofed" the Cayetano Speakership, since at least 150 House members would be needed to have the top seat in the chamber declared vacant by congressmen.

This means that the only way for the Marinduque solon to still become Speaker this 18th Congress is for Cayetano to ignore the manifesto, voluntarily step down, and refuse to be nominated for the next Speakership vote. A vote is necessary since Cayetano can't simply pass on the mandate he won at the start of the 18th Congress to Velasco.

Under the term-sharing agreement, Velasco will take over as Speaker this November for the final 21 months of the 18th Congress. Cayetano, a Nacionalista Party (NP) member, is only supposed to serve as Speaker for the first 15 months.

Even President Duterte, chairman of PDP-Laban, hasn't explicitly endorsed Velasco's bid for the Speakership. Instead, word coming from Malacañang is that he would let the House members resolve their issue on the chamber's leadership.