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Palace keeps mum on issue, lets solons be

‘Awkward’ for Malacañang to announce new House Speaker, says Duterte spox.

It would be awkward for Malacañang to announce the leadership change in the House of Representatives, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Wednesday.

This was after President Rodrigo Duterte met with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to smooth out issues over a term-sharing deal the President brokered last year.

“It will be awkward if the announcement on the leadership of the House will come from the Palace,” Roque said in an interview on ANC.

“It is the House leadership that should address what has been agreed upon,” he added, noting that it was agreed that Cayetano would make an announcement on last night’s meeting.

Sources on Tuesday night told the Standard the meeting between Duterte, Cayetano, and Velasco ended with the agreement that the term-sharing deal would be honored, meaning Velasco will assume the speakership.

But details on when the turnover would happen were sketchy, with one side floating an October 14 date and another a December handover, when Congress would have passed the 2021 budget bill as the President hoped to happen.

The term-sharing deal, however, was put in question after some lawmakers rejected the agreement, in favor of Cayetano staying longer in power.

Roque also addressed criticism on the President’s intervention in the leadership squabble, saying the chief executive did so as chair of the ruling PDP-Laban political party.

“He is the party chair of the PDP-Laban. He facilitated an agreement of sorts between the two members but that is not really a function of the President per se,” Roque said.

Velasco is from PDP-Laban while Cayetano, the President’s defeated 2016 running-mate, is a Nacionalista Party member.

Duterte had to stop the allies of the Speaker from hurling insults against the Marinduque solon before the two camps agreed to a change in the House leadership next month, Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Salvador “Doy” Leachon said Wednesday.

In a TV interview, Leachon confirmed an ABS-CBN source’s claim that Duterte, in his meeting with Cayetano and Velasco late Tuesday, stressed the importance of honoring one’s word and enforcing the Speakership term-sharing deal.

“The President was waiting for both parties to speak... He did not say, ‘Obey me.’ He didn’t want to impose, even though he was very clear in his heart, in his mind what he wanted to convey,” Leachon told ANC. “He just let these two agree on some terms.”

Cayetano, Velasco, and the Speaker’s allies -- Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta and Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado -- all gave speeches before the President, said Leachon.

The Cayetano camp, he said, claimed that though they wanted to uphold the deal, Velasco “betrayed” them by supposedly mounting several failed power grabs, and had offered the post of senior Deputy Speaker to his supporters.

“Duterte said, ‘Okay, that is enough.’ But he was very kind because he gave everyone a chance to speak,” the Mindoro solon said.

Cayetano, in a privilege speech at the House on Wednesday, said Duterte had asked Velasco to move the turnover of the speakership to December to give way for budget deliberations.

“The President repeatedly asked the Cong. Velasco to move the term sharing agreement to December so that Congress may be able to finish the budget,” he said.

“The President asked this not to give me a few months as speaker but because it was for the good of the country,” he added.

Cayetano said Duterte’s appeal to Velasco was rejected “many, may times despite the reasonings given.”

The accusation from the Velasco camp is “a total lie,” Villafuerte said in a separate ANC interview, adding: “I hope the footage is made public.”

He said he told Duterte that lawmakers “will follow you, whatever you want because if it’s an agreement, we will follow,” but he appealed to the President to “listen to what is in our hearts and minds.”

“I said, Mr. President, we want a leader who is with us all the way, in good times and in bad times,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte said he simply noted that Velasco was absent when the House decided on the Anti-Terrorism Act, the franchise denial of ABS-CBN, and the COVID-19 relief packages.

“I clearly said wala si Lord Velasco in those times. That is not an insult, that’s a matter of fact. Alan was there to guide us. We got flak left and right for passing all these bills, but we passed these because we believe in it,” he said.

“We want a leader who will lead us, who has a voice, who has a stand. That’s exactly what I said. We appeal that if you let Congress and its members decide,” Villafuerte said.

Duterte last year brokered the term-sharing agreement between Cayetano and Velasco to lead the House during the three-year term of the 18th Congress ending in 2022, with Cayetano taking the first half as Speaker.

Under the agreement, Cayetano would serve as House Speaker for 15 months set to expire in October, followed by Velasco for 21 months.

Cayetano’s 15 months are set to end in October. Some of his supporters, however, accused Velasco of doing “nothing” and was just waiting to claim the speakership “as if it was his birthright.”

Velasco, upholding that the term-sharing agreement should be honored, said his silence in the past months was “in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker.” 

Topics: Malacañang , Harry Roque , House of Representatives , Rodrigo Duterte
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