MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed that he gave his blessing for a term-sharing agreement between Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco and incoming Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano, rivals in the speakership race.
It seemed, however, that Velasco backed out at the "last minute," said Duterte, whose account of events is consistent with that of Cayetano.
Duterte even said the term-sharing was his idea.
"This is what I said. You split a term. Cayetano wanted to go first. But he will stay there just for 15 months. That's what he committed. Velasco can have the other half which is not really as short – 21 months,"Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English on Thursday, June 27.
"That was the proposal. Cayetano agreed but Velasco appears to have backed out at the last minute," continued Duterte.
The President was asked about the term-sharing scheme after Cayetano issued a statement expressing deep disappointment that Velasco had made a "turnaround" and decided he "won't honor [the] President's wishes" even after he had agreed to it.
During the interview, Duterte said he had proposed the term-sharing when Velasco, Cayetano, and Romualdez met with him in Japan, during his recent visit there for an international forum.
He said he initially even suggested a "toss coin," which the 3 opposed.
In the President's account, it was Cayetano who first sought his endorsement as speaker, and then Velasco. To both, Duterte said he agreed with their plans to seek the speakership but supposedly never gave his "commitment." Romualdez, the last to approach him, also did not get a commitment from him.
"They went up to my room and they said: 'You decide. We will follow.' I cannot do that because I do not want to offend anybody even if you say, 'It's up to you, Mayor.' There's always the fall out," said Duterte.
With the term-sharing deal out of the picture, Duterte sasaid he would stick with his earlier decision to let House members decide on their own.
"Mag-labo-labo na lang kayo (You go it your own), Romualdez, Alvarez, Cayetano. And I am telling each and every one of them, ‘I am sorry. I am very sorry I could not be of help,'" said Duterte.
Velasco, in a statement on Thursday, said as much.
"President Duterte already made clear his position that he would leave the choice for Speakership to the capable hands of the members of Congress and will not endorse a particular individual for the position. This declaration never mentioned a term-sharing for the position of Speaker," said Velasco.
PDP-Laban, Duterte's national political party, had announced Velasco as its bet for Speaker. Three other groups back his bid, though one of them – the party-list coalition – said it would only finalize its decision on July 2, ahead of the July 22 House vote.
The Marinduque lawmaker, whose dad and wife are also close to the President, said many House members find term-sharing problematic.
"There is a strong consensus among majority members of the House of Representatives during my series of consultation with them that term-sharing is divisive and will only impede the passage of important pieces of legislation," said Velasco.
Romualdez, who described himself as a "strong contender" for Speaker, is also opposed to term-sharing, for the same reasons. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.