Duterte-brokered House term-sharing agreement in danger of being scuttled
The House leadership row is far from over, notwithstanding the meeting set by President Duterte between Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Speaker-in-waiting Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco Tuesday night in Malacañang.
Several hours after the meeting with Duterte, Cayetano and Velasco started exchanging verbal attacks.
Last Wednesday, Cayetano accused Velasco of trying to break the “gentleman’s agreement” when the latter insisted that the turnover of power in the House will be on October 14.
The incumbent speaker said ceding his post after celebrating his 50th birthday on October 28, 2020 was part of the original term-sharing agreement with Velasco.
Velasco hit back at Cayetano, accusing the House leader of breaking his word to President Duterte by resorting to “political maneuverings and theatrics” on Wednesday to cling to power.
In an Instagram post Wednesday night, Velasco chided Cayetano for breaking his pledge to Duterte that he will publicly announce his intention to step down as House leader on October 14.
Instead, Cayetano declared his resignation effective September 30 – a move that was rejected by 184 congressmen for various reasons.
A number of solons said they want to follow to the letter the October 14 changing of the guard in the Lower House while many others simply wanted Cayetano to continue serving past the 15-month limit provided under the term-sharing pact with Velasco.
Referring to the results of a meeting with Duterte and leaders of the Lower House at Malacañang on Tuesday, Velasco said Cayetano had “promised to resign on October 14,” allegedly on orders of Duterte for him to honor the term-sharing agreement for the speakership.
“Ito ay usapang lalaki. (This is a gentleman’s agreement),” stressed Velasco, who was supposed to take over the speakership post on October 14.
“Moreover, the President entrusted you with the task of announcing the date of the turnover. October 14 was chosen as the date for the turnover because we committed to pass the budget before October 14 and do nothing else that would disrupt or derail the process,” said Velasco.
The House leadership decided to cancel the budget deliberations scheduled Wednesday afternoon after the chamber voted not to accept Cayetano’s offer to resign.
“It is most unfortunate, therefore, that today (Wednesday), deliberations on the budget was suspended. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, further political maneuverings and theatrics took the budget deliberations hostage,” stated Velasco.
Several House members were quick to surmise that the whole incident was “scripted” and meant mainly to give Cayetano a reason to renege on his vow to President Duterte to abide by the term-sharing agreement for the speakership.
“Speaker Cayetano’s resignation offer was a waste of legislative time and an abuse of privilege.
He could have done it on Facebook,” said PBA Party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles.
Staunch Cayetano critic and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza decried the plenary incident as a “scripted telenovela” meant to give the incumbent Speaker another reason to stay in his post.
“He blackmailed Congress and the whole country by again not following the agreement and resigning ahead of October 14,” said Atienza.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon said the “scheme was actually not to follow the term-sharing agreement and the President.” Leachon said: “This is actually a political affront to the President.”
He said the camp of Velasco remained hopeful Cayetano will still honor the “gentleman’s agreement” and step down on October 14 and give the speaker’s post to Velasco.
“In our institution, this is called palabra de honor,” said Leachon.
“His offer to resign was inappropriate.” Cayetano on the offensive On Wednesday, Velasco was the center of Cayetano’s privilege speech delivered a few hours after they met Duterte to resolve the controversy surrounding compliance with the gentleman’s term-sharing agreement that the Chief Executive brokered last year.
The Speaker roundly criticized Velasco for various acts that Cayetano claimed were violations of the terms of the agreement.
“These attacks and distractions serve no purpose other than to perpetuate what is a purely personal agenda threatening to delay the passage of the budget. This is the truth,” Velasco responded.
He said: I call on my colleagues to continue our work and pass the budget on or before October 14.
This is the commitment we’ve made before the President, and this is our responsibility to our constituents, to deliver to them a fair and equitable budget.”
Velasco also expressed his gratitude to Duterte for calling the caucus that supposedly ironed out kinks in the observance of the termsharing agreement.