MANILA - Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday challenged political rival Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to produce the numbers needed to unseat him as the House leader.
Velasco earlier lashed out at Cayetano's attempts to malign him, and the latter's refusal to honor the term-sharing agreement brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte for the Speakership last year.
However, Cayetano said Velasco can just unseat him and take over the leadership, if the majority of the lower chamber wants to.
“Kung may number kayo, just do it. Anyone can stand on the floor and palitan ang Speaker," he said.
Velasco had accused Cayetano of holding the 2021 national budget hostage amid their dispute over the House leadership, which the Speaker denied.
"I gave you a chance nung Sept. 30, para nga isa na lang ang budget para di maapektuhan 'yung tao. But anyway, despite these questions po, we are focused," he said.
Cayetano also denied that House members were being prevented from talking or voicing their sentiments during sessions.
“Hindi po totoo na may pinagbabawalan magsalita o pumunta. Ang problema sa iba nating kasama, ilang buwan na ang COVID, ilang buwan na nating pinapakiusapang magtrabaho. Pero nagtago, nag-absent, 'di daw sila makapunta and then gumawa tayo ng sistema that everyone can do on line at ngayon pinapalabas namin na pinagbabawalan namin pumunta," he said.
"Talaga pong pinagbabawalan namin na masyadong marami na sa floor para sa proteksyon na rin ng lahat."
Cayetano took aim at Velasco’s previous statement claiming he had been working quietly in the House.
“Sabi working quietly. Wala pong working quietly sa Kongreso, dahil po sa Kongreso, ang publiko kasama. Sa publiko po, kaya nga public hearing, so nagsasalita at nagpapa-hearing. Kaya nga privileged speech, nasa floor. Kaya nga interpellation, magsasalita," he said.
"‘Yung working quietly, ang ibig sabihin n’on, doing nothing."
Cayetano also claimed some lawmakers want to sabotage the ongoing budget deliberations.
“Ang problema nga po, 'yung iba sobrang uhaw sa kapangyarihan, willing sila isabotahe ang budget process, willing sila kahit 3 beses pakiusapan ng Presidente ay mag ‘no’ sa harap niya. Willing pong manggulo.”
In September, House members bickered after it was discovered that a bigger infrastructure budget compared to other districts was allocated for Taguig, where separate districts are represented by Cayetano and his spouse.
Cayetano denied claims Taguig got a disproportionate share in the government’s budget to the detriment of other districts.
“Sixty percent daw ng budget ng Metro Manila ay nasa Taguig. Ang masasabi ko dun, wow! Sixty percent ng budget ng buong Metro Manila mapupunta sa atin?" he said.
“Ang medyo inaalma ko lang ay ‘yung campaign of lies, o ‘yung paninira na ginagawa. Eh ang sabi, 60 percent of budget sa Metro Manila napunta sa Taguig. That’s completely false.”
Velasco in his statement last week urged Cayetano to "stop with the theatrics" after the latter earlier offered to step down because of the former's supposed eagerness to take over the House, and resign on Oct. 14.
Cayetano told Velasco to “read between the lines” why he offered to resign as head of the chamber last week.
He insisted that the matter of the House leadership has been settled.
"And very obvious naman, in-announce na ng Malacañang, it’s left up to the House leadership who will be their Speaker. So, everyone naman reads between the lines," he said.
Cayetano said Velasco’s rejection that they work together on the budget led to his offer to resign last week.
"Hindi puwedeng dalawa ang magluluto. Tapos iba ang direksiyon. O either ibigay ko na sa kaniya, kaya ako nag-offer mag resign na n’ung September 30, or ituloy ko na at tapusin ko ang budget," he said.
Duterte earlier pushed Cayetano to uphold the term-sharing deal and let Velasco lead the House, two members of the lower chamber said.
However, another lawmaker said that the term-sharing agreement between the two is not binding on the members of the lower chamber.