Key allies of former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday called on the new leadership in the House of Representatives to put on hold any move to reorganize the chamber, saying that this may come after the passage of the 2021 national budget.
Reps. Elpidio Barzaga (NUP, Cavite) and Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan Partylist) said they respect any decision that newly installed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco will pursue but they both believe in gradual recovery from the speakership squabble that divided the majority bloc.
Barzaga, president of NUP, said that with over 200 House members supporting Velasco, the new speaker’s way of passing priority legislation of the Duterte administration should be respected.
“In these challenging times, we cannot afford to be disunited,” said Barzaga.
“As the new leader of the House and considering he has behind him the support of more than two hundred members of Congress, he is the best person to determine what must be done to succeed as the head of Congress as well as to ensure the immediate passage of all the priority legislation of the President,” said Barzaga, chairman of the House Committee on Ecology.
He added: “The National Unity Party shall always be behind the programs of the President especially those projects addressing the pandemic.”
The NUP now ranks the third largest political bloc in the Lower House.
“There will be a proper time for reorganization and politics. Now is the time for the budget,” said Defensor, chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts.
“Due courtesy should be given to the leadership as respect should be given to the solons who sided with Speaker Alan. This is the proper way and process of a collegial and deliberative body such as Congress,” explained the partylist solon.
Barzaga and Defensor, together with Deputy Speaker Dan Fernandez (NUP, Laguna) and Jonathan Sy-Alvarado (NUP, Bulacan), are among the top defenders of Cayetano during the tense speakership fight.
Earlier, the House leadership stripped Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte of his post as deputy speaker. Villafuerte was the most outspoken critic of Velasco.
Others who came out publicly to assail Velasco’s bid to pursue Cayetano’s compliance to a term-sharing agreement brokered by President Duterte last year were Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales II (NP, Mandaluyong City) and Prospero Pichay Jr. (Lakas-CMD, Surigao del Sur)
In a media interview Wednesday, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman dared Cayetano’s top supporters who are holding leadership posts to voluntarily resign to allow Velasco to name allies who have his full trust and confidence.
However, Cayetano slammed the suggestion, saying that Velasco should honor his commitment not to touch the committees, although the former speaker himself had reneged on his promise to give up the speakership post in observance of the 15-21 term sharing agreement he and Velasco forged last year.
Days before being ousted as House leader, Cayetano stripped Velasco’s allies of their respective posts mainly due to their support for the Marinduque lawmaker.
1Pacman Partylist Rep. Mikee Romero was first to be sacked by the then Cayetano-led majority. Romero was relieved as deputy speaker, one day after he accompanied Velasco to a meeting with President Duterte.
Also ousted were Reps. Helen Tan (NPC, Quezon); Sharon Garin (AAMBIS OWA) and Eric Martinez (PDP-Laban, Valenzuela City) as chairperson of the House Committees on Health, Economic Affairs, and Sports and Youth, respectively.
Romero and Tan were able to recover their respective seats on the first two days of Velasco’s incumbency.
Cayetano has also caused the removal of Mindoro Oriental Rep. Doy Leachon as Lower House head in the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. Also booted out by Cayetano was Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab as chairman of the powerful Committee on Appropriations.