Lord’s reign in House begins

Published October 13, 2020, 1:55 PM

by Ellson Quismorio & Ben Rosario

Cayetano resigns shortly after over 200 solons ratify Velasco’s election as new Speaker

And just like that, the fight is over. 

A huge number of congressmen ratified on the House plenary floor shortly before noon Tuesday the election of Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as the new Speaker. 

Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (HOR / MANILA BULLETIN)

The ratification, announced by presiding officer, Deputy Speaker and ABONO Party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella III, finalized the ouster of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano the previous day at Celebrity Sports Plaza when the same number of solons declared the Speaker’s seat vacant. 

They subsequently elected the 42-year-old to the fourth highest position in the land at the Quezon City country club. 

On Tuesday, Velasco was able to address the plenary as Speaker, his rival Cayetano finally vanquished. 

Acting as Majority Leader in the morning session, Pampanga 4th District Rep. Rimpy Bondoc, clarified to Velasco that more than 186 of their colleagues had wanted to vote for him Monday. 

However, some solons couldn’t do so because of the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“More than 200 congressmen have sent in their votes for you,” Bondoc said, adding that Velasco now clearly leads the majority in the 299-strong chamber. 

Cayetano resigns

Cayetano stepped down from his post two hours after over 200 congressmen ratified on the House floor his ouster as speaker and the election of Velasco as his replacement. 

“He voluntarily resigned,” declared Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. DV Savellano, an ally of Cayetano. 

1Pacman Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, whom Cayetano ousted as deputy speaker for accompanying Velasco during a meeting with President Duterte, said the election of Velasco “twice in a row” was clear.

“Congressman Cayetano’s resignation came too late. Speaker Lord was already elected as speaker,” said Romero Muntinlupa lone district Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Blazon and Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo cheered at the “wise” gesture of the former Speaker. 

“It would provide stability to the House. He made a wise decision for the institution,” Blazon said in a text message, after Cayetano, in a Facebook Live post, announced that he is tendering his irrevocable resignation as House Speaker.

For his part, Ang Probinsyano partylist Rep. Ronnie Ong said, “Rep. Cayetano’s resignation from the Speakership is the honorable thing left to do, not only to abide by the term-sharing agreement but also for the House to resume the swift and successful passing of the budget.” 

But for Cebu City 2nd District Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa, Cayetano’s act is nonsensical. 

“Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano no longer has the position to resign from after the majority of the House members voted Rep. Lord Allan Velasco yesterday as Speaker, and then ratified in today’s session,” he said. 

Negros Oriental 2nd District Rep. Manuel Sagarbarria said he was not surprised by Cayetano’s resignation. 

“It is expected,” he said. 

In a press statement sent to the House media around 1 p.m, Cayetano said he tendered his “irrevocable resignation” in response to the “untenable political situation” in the Lower House. 

“From the start, I have always said that I will abide by what the President, as leader of our coalition, will say,” Cayetano said in a Facebook post. 

Velasco and Cayetano had a term-sharing agreement for the speakership in the 18th Congress. 

Under the gentleman’s agreement brokered by President Duterte, Velasco would take over the leadership after Cayetano’s 15th month as Speaker. 

Things turned ugly as the supposed transfer of power drew near, with both solons splitting hairs as to what the exact date of turnover should be. 

Along the way, Cayetano called Velasco an absentee solon who wasn’t knowledgeable about the budget; Velasco, on the other hand, continuously assailed Cayetano for his attempts to dishonor the termsharing pact.

In his speech, Velasco raised the matter of palabra de honor or word of honor in an obvious jab at his rival. 

He said that the “turmoil” in the House the past few weeks resulted “from the abject refusal to honor that agreement.” 

“A rejection of the agreement is a rejection of palabra de honor, and likewise a rejection of MayorPresident Duterte himself,” the new Speaker claimed. 

Velasco is a member of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDPLaban), the party chaired by the Chief Executive. 

“Let us be good examples of palabra de honor and demonstrate that our word is our bond,” said the Marinduque congressman, who also vowed “to restore a sense of statesmanship in the House.”

Representatives of various political parties and regional blocs subsequently delivered messages of support to Velasco. 

The session was suspended shortly after this as Velasco had to rush to a scheduled meeting at Malacañang with President Duterte and Cayetano. 

Palace congratulates Velasco 

Malacañang congratulated Velasco on his assumption of the top post, saying it looks forward to working with its close ally to advance the administration’s legislative agenda. 

After the leadership dispute at the Lower House has been settled, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte has become “very optimistic” about the passage of the proposed P4.506 trillion national budget for next year. 

“Our congratulations then to the new Speaker of the House, Congressman Lord Allan Velasco,” Roque said during a Palace press briefing on Tuesday, Oct. 13. 

“We look forward to working closely with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco because he is also a very close ally of this administration. At tingin ko magpapatuloy ang buong kooperasyon ng ehekitubo at Kongreso under the leadership of Congressman Speaker Lord Allan Velasco (And I think the full cooperation between the executive and Congress will continue under the leadership of Congressman Speaker Lord Allan Velasco),” he said. 

The House leadership change came after President Duterte cautioned lawmakers to resolve their impasse and pass the 2021 national budget or else he would do it for them. 

He has already called for a special session of Congress to ensure the budget bill’s timely approval as the feud between Cayetano and Velasco threatened to derail the deliberations. 

Lakas-CMD shifts allegiance

Meanwhile, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) has thrown its support behind Velasco, a reliable source told the Manila Bulletin Tuesday morning. 

Lakas-CMD is the political party of Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, who acted as Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s right-hand man for the past 15 months. Romualdez, Leyte’s 1st district congressman, serves as president of the party which has a membership of 35 solons in the Lower Chamber. (With reports from Charissa M. Luci-Atienza and Genalyn D. Kabiling)