MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte pushed Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to uphold a term-sharing deal with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and let him lead the House of Representatives, two of its members said Wednesday.
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.
"It was the agreement and it was enforced during the time they were discussing among the 3 of them. The question was only as to when, but both parties agreed before the President on Oct. 14," Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Salvador "Doy" Leachon told ANC.
Cayetano and Velasco, with "7 or 8" allies each, met Duterte at the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse, after which he held a separate meeting with the pair and his longtime aide and now senator Christopher "Bong" Go.
"It was stated very clearly. Well, the position of course of the President, even during the time it was being impressed upon us, the nature of the conversation, is to enforce definitely," Leachon, Velasco's PDP-Laban partymate, added.
DUTERTE STOPS SQUABBLE?
At one point in Tuesday's meeting, the Cayetano camp 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.
"Sabi niya (Duterte), ‘Okay, tama na ‘yan.’ Pero napakabait, dahil binigyan naman lahat ng pagkakataon magsalita," Leachon said.
(Duterte said, 'Okay, that is enough.' But he was very kind because he gave everyone a change to speak.)
"For that reason, in behalf of Cong. Velasco and all us there, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the President for giving such important time to all of us. He has shown to me not only the President of the country, but likewise, just like a father of a family, he wants all things in order," he said.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, a close ally of Cayetano who was also present, said this account of what transpired in the meeting was incorrect.
"That’s a total lie. Sobrang kasinungalingan yan. Sana ilabas yung footage," he told ANC's Headstart.
(That's a total lie. That is really untrue. I hope the footage may be released.)
Villafuerte said he told Duterte that "we want a leader who is with us all the way, in good times and in bad times," while noting that Velasco was absent when the House of Representatives decided on bills that drew criticism from the public, such as the Anti-Terrorism Law, the non-renewal of ABS-CBN's broadcast franchise, and COVID-19 relief packages, Bayanihan 1 and 2.
"Hindi insulto yun (that's 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. We want a leader who will lead us, who has a voice, who has a stand," he said.
"Makikita mo ang mga tao ni Lord gumagawa ng istorya," he said.
(You will see that Lord's men are making up stories.)
Villafuerte also accused the Velasco camp of prematurely announcing the turnover of Speakership on Oct. 14. He said this was "not clear" in the meeting.
"How can you be the new speaker? You still have to be voted upon," said Villafuerte.
"Ang nangyari, wala pang 2 minutes, may bagong Speaker na, and then nagkaroon na ng date, Oct. 14. I was there, wala namang sinabi ang Presidente na Oct. 14," he said.
(What happened was in less than 2 minutes, there was a new Speaker and there was even a date, Oct. 14. I was there and the President did not mention Oct. 14.)
He added, Cayetano assumed the Speakership on July 22, 2019, so the end of the 15-month term should have been Oct. 22, 2020.
NATIONAL BUDGET, 2022 POLLS
The House gets first crack at recasting the proposed budget of the administration.
The President's son, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, recently denied he would seek Cayetano's removal as Speaker after congressmen 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 the 2 districts of Taguig while their ally Deputy Speaker Luis Villafuerte represents a district in Camarines Sur, 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 reportedly orchestrated the ouster of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who was replaced by former President and then Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Following the leadership change, the enactment of the 2019 budget was delayed by 4 months.
"We cannot afford" another delay in the passage of the budget, said Villafuerte. But he does not agree with Velasco's supposed plan to pass the National Expenditure Program exactly as proposed by the executive branch. Several other colleagues support his position, he said.
Cayetano’s allies have said that the 2021 budget will be approved before the Congress break on Oct. 17 to Nov. 15.
- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News