The cat is out of the bag: Only President Rodrigo Duterte's word can guarantee Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco that he can take over the speakership from Alan Peter Cayetano by November.
Speaker Cayetano said this on Monday night, March 2, after meeting with more than 100 lawmakers from his Nacionalista Party (NP) and the powerhouse National Unity Party (NUP) at the Andaya Hall of the Batasang Pambansa.
"We don't really need to talk eh. Ang message ko lang sa kanya: Trabaho lang tayo. 'Wag magsiraan, 'wag tayong mag-intrigahan at 'wag kang matatakot na hindi ka magiging Speaker. Kasi kung 'yan talaga ang gusto ng Presidente – he's the head of our coalition – mangyayari 'yan, 'di ba? 'Yon lang 'yon," the Speaker said in a chance interview.
(We don't really need to talk. Here's my message to him: Let's just work. Let's not spread intrigues about each other and don't be scared that you won't be Speaker. Because if that's what the President wants – he's the head of our coalition – that will happen, right? It's as simple as that.)
"I mean what more can I say, except that pagdating ng araw at sabi ng Pangulo na time to change, eh 'di change (when the time comes and the President says it's time to change, then we'll change). Change court, change court," the Taguig City-Pateros 1st District congressman added.
Cayetano called for a meeting with NP and NUP on Monday to directly answer their questions about the supposed failed coup plot that Velasco tried to stage against him.
The two lawmakers have agreed to share terms as Speaker – a deal endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019. Under the agreement, Cayetano will head the House for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress or until October 2020, then Velasco takes over for the 21 months after that.
Cayetano was Duterte's running mate in the 2016 elections, while Velasco is a close friend of the President and his family.
Multiple House insiders told Rappler that Cayetano and his allies are now "maneuvering" to use Velasco's allegedly foiled coup attempt to scrap their term-sharing agreement. (READ: Is there a House coup or is Cayetano just out to scrap term-sharing with Velasco?)
This is not surprising, as Cayetano himself said he is open to being Speaker until 2022. Ranking members of the House previously said it might also be difficult to replace Cayetano as Speaker after the latter received a 62% trust rating and a 64% approval rating in the September 2019 Pulse Asia survey.
On Monday, Cayetano dared Velasco to go on record and promise that should their term-sharing deal push through, all the other House leadership posts – from committee chairs to deputy speakers – will be retained.
The Speaker said he accommodated different political parties' requests for House posts because he wanted to form a coalition in the House. Cayetano argued Velasco is now destroying this coalition by offering committee chairmanships to lawmakers who would agree to oust him.
"So kung mamumulitika ako, dapat hinati ko na lang Congress 50% plus one then tinodo ko 'yong resources ko sa kanila para may base ako. Pero hindi. We opened it up to everyone. It's a coalition," Cayetano said.
(If I were politicking, then I should have just divided Congress by 50% plus one, then I should have showered my resources on them so that I'd have a base. But no. We opened it up to everyone. It's a coalition.)
"Sila ang nagte-threaten ng coalition by what they are doing, 'di ba? So 'yon ang challenge ko naman sa kanya: Go on the record, na pagpalit [natin as Speaker], tayong dalawa lang ang magpapalit. All the other chairmen will stay. Problema he'll lose some of his support, 'di ba?"he added.
(They are the ones threatening the coalition by what they are doing, right? So here's my challenge for him: Go on record and say that only the two of us will be changing positions. All the other chairmen will stay. The problem with that is he'll lose some of his support, right?)
Cayetano alleged that Velasco is already offering committee chairmanships and budget allocations to those who would oust the Speaker. But the Marinduque congressman already denied this.
The Cayetano-led House already booted out Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab as House appropriations panel chair and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Salvador Leachon as chair of the House contingent to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, after their recent statements pissed off the Speaker and his allies. – Rappler.com