MANILA— House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano took to the rostrum of the chamber Wednesday to hit his speakership rival Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, only to announce his resignation later— a move that was eventually overturned by his colleagues.
In a nearly hourlong privilege speech, Cayetano detailed how Velasco has supposedly failed to prove his mettle to lead the almost 300-member House of Representatives.
"[H]indi narinig ang kaniyang stand sa mga usaping pampubliko... Ang problema ang daming nagsasabing question mark ang kaniyang speakership. Hindi po personal... COVID eh, nagtago ka eh. Hindi ko alam kung nasa aircon kang hotel," Cayetano said, echoing his allies' allegation that Velasco was notorious for "absenteeism."
The events at the House Wednesday afternoon was preceded by a meeting among Cayetano, Velasco and President Rodrigo Duterte Tuesday night to iron out the implementation of a term-sharing deal between the two.
Cayetano was to hand over the reins of the House to Velasco after 15 months, which counts to October this year. Velasco, then, will serve for the remaining 21 months of the session.
Later Tuesday night, reports came out that Duterte had agreed to enforce the "15-21 deal" and let Velasco sit as Speaker beginning Oct. 14.
But Cayetano denied this as "fake news" coming from the Velasco camp. He said Duterte, in fact, repeatedly asked Velasco to let the House finish deliberations on the crucial 2021 budget before assuming the chamber's top post.
"Nag-text brigade na [sila] na may halong fake news... The President repeatedly asked Cong. Velasco to move the term-sharing agreement to December so that Congress may be able to finish the budget... It was for the good of the country," Cayetano said.
Cayetano even alleged that Velasco offered to be a "rubber stamp" of the executive-drafted National Expenditure Program (NEP), instead of scrutinizing it like a self-respecting legislative branch.
"Hindi po simple ang budget ngayon dahil may FLR (for later release) at may issue po... President is not asking us to be a rubber stamp... It was Cong. Velasco who was telling the President that we will be a rubberstamp. Kung ano daw ang NEP, 'yun ang ipapasa eh," Cayetano said.
ABS-CBN News has sought Velasco's side but he has yet to issue a statement as of this writing.
But while he criticized Velasco for allegedly offering the House as Duterte's rubber stamp, Cayetano in the same speech confessed that he would "follow" Duterte's lead.
"[I told the President] Congress will be independent but I will follow your lead...I don't mind calling myself a follower," he said.
He even said he was willing to resign if Duterte told him to do so.
"Kung gusto mo, boss, utusan mo ako mag-resign. Hindi lang as Speaker, utusan mo ko mag-resign sa House of Representatives. Kaya ko namang tumulong sa mga kababayan ko kesyo congressman ako o hindi eh, diba? I'm blessed with a wife who takes care of both districts and a brother who takes care of the whole city," Cayetano said.
Cayetano was pertaining to his wife Lani, representative of the other Taguig district. The couple has been called "garapal" for their simultaneous congressional run in the bustling southern Metro Manila city.
'WORK WITH ME'
Cayetano also painted Velasco as uncooperative in his attempts to unite both camps.
"I asked Cong. Velasco to be my senior deputy speaker, a position that does not exist. But since we have never experience term sharing... it would be awkward for me to work as Speaker. Mag-join forces na tayo," Cayetano said, adding Velasco declined his offer.
In the same speech, Cayetano accused Velasco of breaking off from their earlier agreement that he would be able to celebrate his 50th birthday as House Speaker.
"When we made the 15-21 deal, very clear ang usapan: I have 2 budgets na ipapasa at magbe-birthday ako na ako ang Speaker. Sabi niya, birthday ko rin eh. [I said] pare, 50th birthday ko sentimental sa akin. [He said] babaw mo naman... Mababaw talaga ako," Cayetano narrated.
Cayetano will celebrate his birthday on Oct. 28.
At the end of his speech, Cayetano offered his resignation supposedly to pave the way for Velasco's leadership.
"Cong. 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. 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 during the last part of his speech.
Just a few seconds after, a Cayetano ally moved to overturn his resignation and keep him as House Speaker. Majority of the lawmakers agreed.
It was unclear if the resignation and its rejection were orchestrated by Cayetano and his allies, but the House Speaker seemed to have predicted something.
"You need a majority of all members to be elected as House Speaker. I will step aside but I cannot guarantee that you will be elected. In fact, my fearless forecast, hindi siya (Velasco) mananalo or if I step aside, mananalo siya, but after 1 week makukudeta siya," Cayetano warned Velasco in the same speech.