Duterte son flexes political muscle as Cayetano bags speakership

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2019 05:01 PM | Updated as of Jul 22 2019 05:14 PM

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano greets Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte at the House of Representatives session hall on July 22, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano clinched the House speakership Monday, averting a perceived  last-minute threat, to lead a “super” coalition seen to stand on unsteady legs despite appearances of strength and unity.

Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte nominated Cayetano for the post, as did 2 other erstwhile contenders: Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.

But the nomination came with an ominous warning from Congressman Duterte, whose group earlier endorsed someone else for speaker: Cayetano is expected to step down after 15 months.

It’s part of a term-sharing deal hammered out by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The younger Duterte rejected term-sharing, saying the agreement bound only his father and the 3 other contenders for speaker.

“If the Speaker resigns after 15 months,” he told the chamber, “then we will have to elect a new Speaker.”

WORD OF HONOR

Velasco, who will serve 21 months as speaker, also pointed to Cayetano’s “word of honor” when he nominated his peer for speaker.

He later told ANC that he would again remind Cayetano of their term-sharing agreement later on.

Though Congressmen Duterte eventually bowed to his father’s endorsement of Cayetano, one lawmaker said he successfully “projected his strength.”

“This means the younger Duterte is a force in this House,” the congressman told ABS-CBN News on condition of anonymity.

Rep. Mikee Romero, who leads the party-list bloc, described Congressman Duterte as a “conscience of the whole.”

"You know, isang maling galaw ng whoever, there is always yung mata ng presidente through Deputy Speaker Pulong Duterte,” Romero told ANC.

(This is strategic. The President has eyes in the chamber through Deputy Speaker Pulong Duterte.)

BREAKFAST MEETING

Word earlier went around that Cayetano’s bid might be in peril, if not for President Duterte’s threat to boycott his State of the Nation Address (SONA) unless the speakership was settled beforehand.

Duterte’s former aide, Sen. Christopher Go, later told Senate reporters that the president had indeed made the warning.

The president was apparently avoiding a repeat of the protracted speakership row that delayed his SONA last year.

Phone calls made at the last minute to congressmen by the president’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, helped Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unseat Pantaleon Alvarez as speaker.

A breakfast meeting called by Congressman Duterte raised fears that a House coup might be in the works. It was scheduled at the same time that Cayetano was to gather supporters in the morning.

ENDORSEMENT

But Romero said the speakership had been pretty much settled among the 3 contenders, except that some of their supporters were still ironing out certain “problems.”

“Everything was settled peaceably, amicably kaya hindi na tayo nagkaroon ng fireworks dito sa floor ngayong umaga (that's why there were no fireworks on the floor this morning),” Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga told ABS-CBN News.

Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. denied Cayetano’s election as speaker was in danger, saying the president’s endorsement settled it.

“Nirerespeto nila yung wish ng Presidente,” he told ABS-CBN News. “Yun lang naman yung hinihintay.”

(They respected the President's wish. That was what everyone was waiting for.)

To further show unity, Velasco, Romualdez, and the younger Duterte joined Cayetano at the rostrum for his oathtaking.