House Speakership drama takes anti-climactic, peaceful end

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2020 04:12 PM

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco listens to statements of support during the special session of the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Tuesday, after 186 lawmakers voted to ratify his election as Speaker at the Celebrity Sports Plaza on October 12, 2020. Screengrab

MANILA— The months-long, tension-filled power struggle at the House of Representatives took an anti-climactic and peaceful end Tuesday, after Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco took over the chamber's top post with no more resistance from Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano. 

Some 186 lawmakers voted Tuesday to ratify Velasco's election as Speaker, following Monday's legally-contested election at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City, which Cayetano and his allies had earlier rejected.

In an unexpected turn of events, Cayetano tendered his "irrevocable" resignation just as he was ousted.

It was an unexpected trajectory of events, as allies of Cayetano up until hours before were denouncing Velasco's election, mocking and questioning its legitimacy.

"My challenge to the Velasco camp, present the 186 congressmen who allegedly voted for him," Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said. 

But cracks from their bloc started to show leading up to Velasco's assumption of the chamber's top post.

Cayetano's major allies started submitting to the Velasco camp early Tuesday.

"After much deliberation, we as a party, have decided to act on what’s best for the House and our party. Consequentially, we have chosen to abide by the term-sharing agreement brokered by no less than the President and support the speakership of Lord Allan Velasco," said House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez.

END OF POWER STRUGGLE?

In his first address at the plenary session as House Speaker, Velasco thanked his colleagues as he maintained the push for the timely passage of the 2021 national budget. 

Velasco, likewise, said he wanted to "restore" a sense of statesmanship to the House.

"To this day, there is that sense of reverence to the memory and the legacy of the men and women who once lit up its hallowed halls. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us who follow in their footsteps to respect their memory by living up to the code of honor to which they swore and lived by," he said. 

Indication of support from different blocs followed.

A new majority also assumed its position in the House, led by Party-List Coalition President 1PACMAN Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab for the Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Rep. Doy Leachon for PDP-Laban, Rep. Divine Yu for the Mindanao bloc, Rep. Manuel Lopez for the National Capital Region bloc, Rep. Kiko Benitez for the Visayas bloc, Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu for BARMM, and AKO-Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin for the Bicol lawmakers.

Even the Liberal Party, through Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong, under the guidance of Vice President Leni Robredo, threw its support for Velasco.

As the tug-of-war for control of House leadership ended, Velasco underscored the importance of having word of honor.

"Let us show our countrymen that loyalty and fidelity to the promises we make are not mere conveniences for us. Let us be good examples of palabra de honor and demonstrate that our word is our bond," he said.

Cayetano had refused to yield to the term-sharing agreement, asking Velasco if he could stay on as Speaker until December for the sake of the budget. 

The tussle prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to make a public plea for lawmakers to prioritize the 2021 national budget over political bickering.