Term-sharing or graceful exit for Andaya as House majority leader?

Mara Cepeda
Term-sharing or graceful exit for Andaya as House majority leader?
Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro claims there is a 'gentlemen's understanding' between him and House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr

Camarines Sur 1st District Representative Rolando Andaya Jr seems to have accepted that he would soon no longer be House Majority Leader.

Rappler asked Andaya on Monday, January 21, if he is stepping down and if he can confirm the supposed term-sharing agreement between him and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro.

“No term-sharing. He is the best man for the job,” said Andaya through Viber message.

Pressed further why he is stepping down now with only 17 session days left and in the middle at that of the investigation he is leading against Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, the Majority Leader merely repeated his previous statement.

“All I’m saying is that he (Castro) is better suited for majo (majority leader) and he deserves it,” said Andaya.

Castro told Rappler that he and Andaya have a “gentlemen’s understanding” regarding sharing terms as Majority Leader.

Castro said this was finalized days after then-speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was ousted in July 2018 and was replaced by Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as new leader of the House.

Andaya and Castro were the two congressmen considered for the majority leadership days after the House coup. But on July 30, 2018, it was Castro himself who moved to elect Andaya as the right-hand man of the Speaker.

“To place it in a more appropriate language, among gentlemen, there was an understanding, hindi agreement (not agreement). There was a gentlemen’s understanding,” said Castro. 

He said the official announcement regarding the House leadership change is happening “this afternoon,” meaning the plenary session at 3 pm on Monday. 

Two other congressmen told Rappler that the term-sharing agreement had been in place since last year, long before Andaya kicked off the probe into the alleged anomalies in the 2018 and 2019 budgets prepared under Diokno.

Ouster plot?

But there had been talks in the House since early January that lawmakers are seeking to oust Andaya, with the latter’s political rival Camarines Sur 2nd District Representative Luis Raymund Villafuerte supposedly behind it. Villafuerte denied the coup plot, but said an ouster would be a waste of time and Andaya should just voluntarily resign

Villafuerte said House members are turned off by the war Andaya is waging against a member of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet. Castro, however, said Andaya’s stepping down has nothing to do with Andaya’s ongoing rift with Diokno. (READ: Arroyo backs Andaya amid ouster rumors) 

“No, no, no. Forged among gentlemen, this is a routine process,” said Castro.

On January 10, Andaya said he has long wanted to be relieved of his duties as Majority Leader. He said he had wanted his friend Castro to get the position instead.

“Gusto ko na nga ma-relieve ng duties as Majority Leader noon pa. When this was first offered to me, I begged off a hundred times. Nagtago pa nga ako….I was happy being deputy speaker,” said Andaya.

(I wanted to be relieved of my duties as Majority Leader even before. When this was offered to me, I begged off a hundred times. I was hiding…I was happy being deputy speaker.) 

“Sabi ko 6 months lang maximum (I said it would only be 6 months maximum), then please release me. This job has tied me down in Manila when I should be focusing in Camarines Sur,” said Andaya, who is running for governor in May. – 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.