Cayetano offers to resign as Speaker, House immediately rejects move

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2020 04:27 PM | Updated as of Sep 30 2020 08:02 PM

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA (UPDATE) — Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday offered to step down as Speaker of the House of Representatives citing the eagerness of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to take over the chamber's helm — a move readily rejected by his colleagues. 

In a privilege speech before lawmakers, Cayetano said he was resigning as House Speaker, but not before attacking rival Velasco in a nearly 1-hour speech. 

"I will not be a party to letting the President down. So I'm offering my resignation, here and now, to you my dear colleagues. My fate and the fate of the 2021 budget, and the fate of the leadership of the House is in your hands," Cayetano said during the last part of his speech.

He said he was resigning to let Velasco prove that he could be in charge of crucial deliberations on the 2021 budget. 

"Congressman Velasco told the President that he is ready. Then I think the best time for him to prove it is now. Gusto mo ng Sept. 30? Sige. If our colleagues want you today, ikaw na. Let him show that he can pass the budget on time, but more than that, let him show that it will be a great budget. A budget that all of us will be proud of," Cayetano said.

Earlier in his speech, Cayetano alleged that Velasco wants the lower chamber to be a "rubber stamp" of the executive-drafted National Expenditure Program, instead of scrutinizing it.

But lawmakers swiftly moved to reject his resignation, voting viva voce to retain him as head of the administration-dominated House. Nominal voting is still ongoing. 

Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza also voted to reject the resignation, but said Cayetano "should resign on Oct. 14," the reported time of the agreed turnover.

Velasco has yet to respond to requests for comment.

The events at the House Wednesday afternoon followed a meeting among Cayetano, Velasco and President Rodrigo Duterte Tuesday night to iron out the implementation of a term-sharing deal between the two. 

Under the "gentleman's agreement" that Duterte brokered last year, Cayetano will lead the House for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress or until October, while Velasco would assume leadership for the next 21 months. 

However, lawmakers who openly support Cayetano had moved to keep the Taguig representative in power, saying a change in leadership would derail the passage of the 2020 national budget, among other justifications.

The House gets first crack at recasting the proposed budget of the administration. 

Cayetano, in his speech, said he and Duterte appealed for Velasco to agree to take over by December for the sake of passing the budget, as deliberations are already ongoing. 

Cayetano’s allies have said that the 2021 budget will be approved before the Congress break on Oct. 17 to Nov. 15. 

Sources from the Velasco camp said he would assume the Speakership on October 14, but this was not made clear in the meeting, said Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, a close ally of Cayetano who was also present at the meeting.

The power shift is seen to influence the 2022 elections. 

The President's son, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, recently denied he would seek Cayetano's removal as Speaker after lawmakers reportedly complained over their district allocations under the 2021 national budget. 

The year before an election -- in this case 2021 -- is crucial for politicians who are running to showcase their achievements in a bid to secure the support of voters. 

In a budget hearing earlier this month, Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. confronted officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways about reports that Taguig City and Camarines Sur would get the largest slice of their budget. 

Cayetano and his wife Lani run 2 separate districts of Taguig while Villafuerte, the Deputy Speaker, represents a district in Camarines Sur province, where his son Migz is governor. 

Villafuerte called Teves a "rumormonger" for raising concerns based on "hearsay" and linked his accusation with an alleged plot concerning the House Speakership, adding that he saw nothing wrong if his and Cayetano's districts get a larger infrastructure budget. 

In 2018, the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, reportedly orchestrated the ouster of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who was replaced by former President and then Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The leadership change hit the enactment of the 2019 budget, which lawmakers' wrangling delayed by 4 months. 

Cayetano’s allies have said that the 2021 budget will be approved before the Congress break on Oct. 17 to Nov. 15. 

- with reports from Jamaine Punzalan and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News ​