Defensor, Villafuerte eased out of House committee vice-chairmanships

Published January 18, 2021, 10:06 PM

by Ben Rosario

The House of Representatives leadership on Monday stripped of committee assignments two staunch allies of former speaker and incumbent Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano who helped him form the new political bloc BTS, an acronym taken from the popular K-pop group.

Rep. Mike Defensor and Rep. Lray Villafuerte

 After BTS fans took offense to the group for allegedly “politicizing” the image of their idols, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s leadership also showed his displeasure by relieving Reps. Michael T. Defensor (Anakalusugan Partylist) and LRay Villafuerte (NP, Camarines Sur) of vice chairmanship assignments.

Defensor, who was recently sacked as chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts and Good Government, lost the vice chairmanship of five House panels – the Committees on Health, on Public Information, on Dangerous Drugs, and on Public Accounts.  

Asst. Majority Leader and Zamboanga Sibugay Rep. Wilter Palma also moved to relieve Defensor as vice chairman of the House Special Committee on Strategic Intelligence.

Palma also declared in a motion that the majority also wanted Villafuerte be out  as vice chairman of the influential Committee on Accounts.

As if to add insult to injury, the House leadership moved to put Rep. Arnie Fuentebella of the 4th district of Camarines Sur in his place. Fuentebella and Villafuerte belong to the most powerful but bitterly feuding  political clans in that province.

In a statement issued Monday night, the House leadership defended its decision, stressing that both Defensor and Villafuerte have been taken out of the management team “following their vicious and inappropriate attacks” against Velasco and his leadership.

It will be recalled that Villafuerte was the first to receive Velasco’s wrath for playing the role of an outspoken critic of the incumbent speaker during the speakership dispute from September to October last year.  

The former Camarines Sur governor was booted out as deputy speaker almost instantaneously after Velasco was sworn to office as speaker to replace Cayetano.

The relief of the two Cayetano allies came a few days after they joined the former speaker in a press conference to announce the formation of the BTS (Back to service) bloc that lost no time in assailing the current House leadership for allegedly engaging in “too much politics.”

The group described the BTS as an independent majority bloc.

Also in the group were Reps. Raneo Abu (NP, Batangas); Fredenil Castro (Lakas-CMD, Capiz); Dan Fernandez (NUP, Laguna) and Jonathan Sy-Alvarado (NUP, Bulacan).  

The Velasco group has already dealt the four with retaliatory moves for their respective role in blocking moves by Velasco to force Cayetano to abide by a gentleman’s agreement for a term sharing in the speakership post.

Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza said the fate that befell  Defensor and Villafuerte  was a “direct consequence” of their statements criticizing Velasco, who as speaker heads the Malacanang-allied majority bloc.

“The two cannot cry foul especially when they said they’ve lost faith in the present House leadership,” Atienza said. 

He claimed that the leadership’s move was “not about vindictiveness or political vendetta.”

“We are just carrying out their decision to bolt from the majority headed by the Speaker, whom they criticized openly,” he pointed out.

Atienza was also a vocal critic of Cayetano who received far worse beating during the latter’s term as speaker.  

Atienza was denied ordinary membership to any of the more than 80 committees and bodies of the Lower House.