Palace meeting on Speakership leaves House members confused

Published September 30, 2020, 11:35 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

The House of Representatives, particularly the Majority Bloc, is left confused by the aftermath of Tuesday night’s meeting in Malacañang that supposedly resolved with finality the Speakership issue between Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte speaks with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Jay Velasco and several members of the House of Representatives in a meeting at the Malacañang Golf (MALAGO) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on September 29, 2020. (ROBINSON NIÑAL/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

President Duterte served as mediator between current Speaker Cayetano and Speaker-in-waiting Velasco, who both brought their most trusted allies to the meeting. The topic boiled down to whether or not the term-sharing agreement between the two congressmen should be honored.

A few hours into the meeting, tweets saying “Rep. Velasco is the new Speaker” broke out, as if to say Velasco had received Duterte’s blessing to immediately take over the reins from Cayetano.

A House leader who was neither Velasco’s nor Cayetano’s party-mate told the Manila Bulletin that even if the Marinduque solon did get the President’s go-signal, he cannot be proclaimed as of last night as “the new Speaker.”

“Getting himself (Velasco) elected is trickier. May botohan pa (There’s still a vote), you can’t be Speaker by mere turnover. You need to get the majority vote of the (House) members,” said the House leader who declined to be named.

Velasco and Duterte are party-mates in the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), while Cayetano is a Nacionalista Party (NP) stalwart.

Cayetano and Velasco have a term-sharing agreement for the speakership. Under this deal, which President Duterte himself brokered last year, Cayetano will serve as Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, while Velasco will finish the remaining 21 months.

Over the weekend, some 202 out of 299 House members signed a manifesto expressing their support for the continued speakership of Cayetano. The Cayetano camp’s plan was supposedly to raise this manifesto in the meeting with Duterte.

Another hint on what transpired during the Palace meeting could be gleaned from PDP-Laban Executive Director Ron Munsayac’s tweet Tuesday night, which read: “Tapos na po ang (boxing glove emoji).” He also wrote the hashtag #1521 in reference to the term-split.

However, congressmen said that the results from the meeting weren’t as clear-cut as some tweets or other social media posts have suggested.

“We all left with no clear decision and indication. What was clear (was) budget needs to be passed,” a congressman told a House Viber group.

Another House member bared that Velasco, should he get the chance to sit as Speaker, promised Duterte during the meeting that he would pass the proposed budget “as per the National Expenditure Program,” meaning he would have the budget bill approved as is so as not to delay it.

Another House leader appealed to his colleagues last night: “Let’s wait for PRRD (Duterte) to make the announcement (about the meeting). Some of our colleagues are spreading fake news.”

The ranking solon said that right now, every rumor on the results of the meeting could be interpreted as “psychological warfare.”