House Deputy Speaker Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza has re-christened the Alan Peter Cayetano-led “BTS” coalition as “Ampalaya Boys.”
Atienza, a staunch ally of incumbent Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, used the playful phrase in a statement Friday in which he criticized BTS for allegedly mishandling the House of Representatives’ oversight function when Taguig-Pateros Rep. Cayetano was still head honcho of the chamber.
Atienza did not explain why he chose the vegetable ampalaya (bitter gourd) to describe Cayetano’s crew, but it can be inferred that he and House Senior Deputy Speaker Doy Leachon view the group the same way.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Leachon jokingly said Wednesday that the “BTS” in BTS coalition meant “Bitter Talaga Sila (They’re really bitter).”
Cayetano; former House Deputy Speakers Reps. LRay Villafuerte (Camarines Sur), Raneo Abu (Batangas), and Dan Fernandez (Laguna); former Public Accounts chairman, Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan); and former Good Government and Public Accountability chairman, Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado (Bulacan), formally launched their coalition in a press conference Thursday in Quezon City.
Capiz Rep. Fred Castro, another ex-House deputy speaker, was supposed to join the group but was not able to leave his province.
Cayetano, whom Velasco replaced as Speaker last October, said they purposely used the name of the popular Korean boy band to get the public’s attention.
He said that BTS for them means “Back To Service,” even as they claimed that the House under Velasco hasn’t been focusing on the right issues, particularly when it comes to holding public hearings.
Cayetano’s groupmates all lost their plum posts in the House in the months following Velasco’s takeover.
“The truth of the matter was they (Cayetano’s group) killed all other oversight committees that existed in previous Congresses and instead, these powers were monopolized by only two of Cayetano’s ‘barkadas’ – Defensor and Alvarado,” Atienza pointed out.
“Kaya maraming nagalit na miyembro because sila na lang ang puwedeng mag-imbestiga noon (They were the only ones who had the right to investigate, that’s why a lot of House members were angry back then),” he added.
Atienza claimed that it was during the previous Speakership that some congressmen were either muted out or given very limited time to talk and propound questions to resource persons.
Zoom-based hearings became commonplace last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Under Speaker Velasco, the House will revive the committee system and the corresponding oversight committees so everyone can participate. Hindi gaya ng panahon ng Ampalaya Boys na puro barkada lang nila ang may boses (It will be unlike the time of the Ampalaya Boys when only their clique had a voice),” the former three-term Manila mayor said.