House of Representatives

Speaker Cayetano meets with Paolo Duterte amid House power struggle

Mara Cepeda
Speaker Cayetano meets with Paolo Duterte amid House power struggle

ALL IS WELL? A light moment is shared by (from L-R) House Deputy Secretary-General Brian Yamsuan, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Taguig City-Pateros 2nd District Representative Lani Cayetano, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, and ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap on September 26, 2020 in Davao City. Photo from Yap's Instagram account

(UPDATED) This comes a week after Paolo Duterte, son of the President, threatened a powerful bloc to unseat Alan Peter Cayetano as speaker of the House

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano met with presidential son and Deputy Speaker Paolo “Pulong” Duterte as a power shakedown grips the House of Representatives. 

The two ranking congressmen met on Saturday night, September 26, along with the Speaker’s wife and Taguig City-Pateros 2nd District Representative Lani Cayetano, House Deputy Secretary-General Brian Yamsuan, and House committee on appropriations chair Eric Yap, a close ally of Paolo Duterte.

Yap, who publicized photos of their meeting on his Instagram account, had placed Davao City as the location of their meeting. But on Monday, September 28, the ACT-CIS representative told CNN Philippines that they only met in Manila. He claimed he is “not too familiar with social media” so his post may have placed Davao City – Paolo Duterte’s bailiwick – as the default location.

A source from the Cayetano camp told Rappler, however, that it was supposedly Paolo Duterte’s idea to mix up the geotag in Yap’s Instagram post. 

Yap captioned his first post with “Chillax night.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFmfvbSBliu/

He shared another photo of the group hours later, with the politicians seemingly more relaxed as they lounged by the poolside. 

In the picture, Paolo Duterte can be seen lightly touching Cayetano’s shoulder while giving Yap pretend horns with his fingers. 

“Happy Sunday,” Yap said.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CFnNNT9BAdy/

Yap, however, refused to disclose more details about the meeting when asked by Rappler.

He claimed they just engaged in casual conversation and that the proposed P4.5-trillion budget in 2021 – the root cause of the House power struggle – was supposedly not discussed.

Kuwentuhan lang po (We just had a casual conversation),” said Yap. The lawmaker, whose committee is tasked to scrutinize the annual national budget, explained that Paolo Duterte is “allergic” to the budget so they never discuss it.

The Cayetanos’ visit to the presidential son comes as no surprise, since Paolo Duterte is the catalyst of what may be the biggest threat to hound Alan Peter Cayetano’s speakership. 

Paolo Duterte had threatened to ask the Mindanao bloc to unseat Cayetano following grumblings over the 2021 budget.

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Taguig City of the Cayetanos and Camarines Sur province reportedly received the largest slices in infrastructure funds in 2021, with P8 billion and P11.8 billion, respectively. The Speaker himself has yet to confirm or deny these figures.

Paolo Duterte’s threat compounded lawmakers’ uncertainty if the “15-21” term-sharing between Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco would even push through.

No less than President Rodrigo Duterte, Paolo Duterte’s father, had brokered this deal. 

But Cayetano seemed to have made amends with the President’s son and instead accused Velasco of staging yet another coup against him. 

In March, the Taguig City-Pateros 1st District congressman claimed his rival was behind a coup plot against him, a charge Velasco denied. Insiders told Rappler, however, that this was Cayetano’s alleged ploy to scrap his gentleman’s agreement with Velasco.

Political analysts said keeping the speakership was crucial for Cayetano if he had any plans to run in the 2022 presidential elections.

Several ranking legislators have since crossed party lines urging the Marinduque congressman to forget about the term-sharing deal and just let Cayetano stay as Speaker.

Velasco, however, still believes he would become top House leader “at the right time.”

The President already said he would not be able to do anything if Velasco does not have the numbers to back his supposed takeover by November. – Rappler.com

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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.