House of Representatives

Cayetano removes Velasco ally from powerful post

Mara Cepeda
Cayetano removes Velasco ally from powerful post

QUESTIONED? Representative Mikee Romero speaks to reporters.

File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Representative Mikee Romero, a close ally of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, loses his post as deputy speaker in the latest power struggle in the House

1-Pacman Representative Michael “Mikee” Romero is the first casualty in the power struggle between his ally, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. 

During the plenary session on Friday, October 2, Romero was removed as House Deputy Speaker and replaced by Capiz 2nd District Representative Fredenil Castro, who only two hours prior challenged the Velasco bloc to resign from their House posts if they refuse to cooperate with Cayetano. 

It was Deputy Majority Leader Xavier Jesus Romualdo who moved to replace Romero with Castro. No lawmaker objected the motion, so presiding Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu immediately accepted it. Abu is a party mate of Cayetano in the Nacionalista Party.

Rappler asked Romero if he was aware that he was being removed as Deputy Speaker, but he has not replied as of posting time.

Members of the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc (PCFI), which supports Velasco, were surprised by Romero’s removal.

Party list bloc

Romero is president of the party list bloc in the House. With at least 52 members, the PCFI is entitled to one deputy speaker post since it comprises 20% of the total membership of the chamber.

AAMIS-OWA Representative Sharon Garin said removing Romero as House Deputy Speaker is “an affront to our coalition and an insult to everything we have worked for as a bloc.”

“This is not the statement of PCFI but mine alone, as one of the many who originally fought hard and long to give party list representation in Congress integrity and strength,” said Garin.

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Representative Jericho Nograles shared the same sentiments.

“The removal of Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero is an affront against the party-list coalition. I shall withhold any further statements regarding this matter in deference to the coalition,” Nograles said. 

Romero and Garin were part of Velasco’s entourage when legislators met with President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night, September 29, to finally resolve the term-sharing question in the chamber. 

The President told his two allies that the term-sharing agreement that he brokered over a year ago must be honored.

Under the deal, Cayetano is to serve as Speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, then Velasco is to take over in the 21 months after that.  That deal should be respected, President Rodrigo Duterte told both men during their recent meeting.

House members’ grumblings over the inequitable distribution of infrastructure funds in the 2021 budget triggered a power struggle in the chamber and compounded legislators’ uncertainty over the implementation of the term-sharing deal. 

While Duterte’s meeting with the Cayetano and Velasco camps was meant to settle the speakership row once and for all, both parties gave conflicting statement as to when exactly Velasco will sit as Speaker. 

In the face of another impasse, Cayetano offered to step down as House leader on Wednesday, September 30, only for his colleagues to refuse his resignation.

The rejection of his resignation is proof that the Speaker still has control over the majority of the House.

Political analysts believe keeping the speakership is crucial for Cayetano if he has any plans of running for president in 2022. (READ: In House power play, Speaker Cayetano’s Palace dreams are at stake) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.