The House Speakership issue isn't over yet, with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano narrating at length last Wednesday what actually happened during the meeting with the President to settle the controversy over the term-sharing deal forged last year. At the end of his speech, he offered to resign as Speaker, but was prevailed upon to stay by a vote of nearly 190 of the 250 members of Congress.
While we await the final outcome of this tussle, we understand that Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco Jr. has defended his son, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, from allegations that the lawmaker had hatched a plot to unseat Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
The elder Velasco said his son knows how to honor a gentleman’s agreement brokered by the President before the start of the 18th Congress, under which Cayetano would sits as Speaker of the House of Representatives for the first 15 months, while Velasco would follow suit and serve the remaining 21 months until 2022.
Governor Velasco, a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, held a press briefing to assure the public that his son is an honorable man, and will adhere to his "15-21" term-sharing agreement with Cayetano.
News reports quoted the governor as saying that his son “chose to stay silent” amid allegations he was behind the coup attempt against Cayetano.
Lord Allan had opted to stay silent on the issue. But why is his father getting himself involved in the speakership brawl?
To answer that, we take a look at what veteran journalist Marites Dañgilan-Vitug wrote in an online article and in her book, "Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court," that tell us this is not the first time that the elder Velasco had involved himself in his son’s political affairs.
Per Vitug’s article, then Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco asked “at least two local officials to run with his son as councilor and promised to underwrite [their] campaign expenses.” She said the local officials declined the elder Velasco’s alleged offer, and that Justice Velasco denied such allegations. The article adhered to journalistic balance since Vitug also published Velasco’s denial.
Justice Velasco, however, still sued her for libel and sought P1 million in damages, thus becoming the first sitting SC justice to ever file a libel case against a journalist. Justice Velasco later withdrew the case against Vitug, supposedly “out of compassion.”
Justice Velasco had to inhibit himself from the Supreme Court case involving his son’s political bid against the latter’s rival for the Marinduque congressional seat, Regina Ongsiako Reyes. The younger Velasco won the case, but was only allowed to take his oath on the second-to-the-last session day of the 16th Congress.
There were also questions surrounding the Velascos’ support of then-presidential candidate Grace Poe in 2016, even as they are now close to Duterte. Poe also topped the senatorial race in Marinduque when she ran again in 2019, edging out Duterte’s bets Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa.
The father-and-son team in Marinduque politics—and now, in the high-stakes national political scene—reflects a disturbing pattern of concentration of political power in a few families in the country that the framers of the 1987 Constitution felt was something that shouldn't be allowed to continue. Thus, we have Article II, Sec. 26 of State Policies that says: "The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be provided by law. "
As we know, however, various bills have been filed in both chambers of Congress precisely to give flesh to this particular State policy, but have not gone past committee level.
What? Did we expect our lawmakers to legislate themselves out of a lucrative family business? Or, as my favorite Political Science professor at the State University many years ago used to say, to have themselves "declared redundant"?