A former speaker who was deposed over his differences with President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter on Tuesday said Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano should finish his full three-year term until 2022 despite a term-sharing agreement with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
“I do not agree with any term-sharing,” said Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, who was ousted in 2018. “This is not about the speakership, this is about the country. The issue is divisive.”
“In my opinion, Cayetano should just finish what he has started,” he added.
Alvarez also said a new speaker would find it hard to lead the House in the time remaining, since the filing of certificates of candidacy would be in 2021.
Deputy Speaker and Sagip party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta also spoke out against honoring the term-sharing agreement.
“COVID-19 taught us that the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ is not the test of leadership in the House of Representatives,” Marcoleta said.
That agreement, brokered by the President in 2019, did not predict the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still ravaging the country to this day, Marcoleta added.
“Leadership is not about competing or ‘waiting our turn at the right time.’ The last six months dictated the most critical path of our national life. In Congress, we needed everyone to rally behind the speaker in enacting the crucial pieces of legislation that will secure our survival as a people,” Marcoleta said.
Marcoleta credited Cayetano getting lawmakers to pass important legislation even in the middle of a pandemic.
Under the term-sharing deal, Cayetano would serve as speaker for the first 15 months while Velasco would serve for the remaining 21 months.
Meanwhile, Cayetano assured the public that the current “political noise” brought on by some members of Congress against the leadership will not derail the passage of the 2021 national budget.
“Any talk about change in leadership will affect the budget deliberations. I don’t want politics to get mixed into the budget hearings,” he said.
Cayetano said there are some members of the House who want to distract the attention of lawmakers and disrupt the swift passage of the 2021 budget.
However, he said he expects the budget deliberations to run smoothly.
The House leadership remains committed to passing the 2021 national budget, which will be a vital instrument in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives and livelihoods.
He also reminded his colleagues that the 2021 budget should not be about how much each district will receive but how the amount will be used to respond to effects of COVID-19 and accelerate economic recovery.
Several congressmen on Wednesday threw their support behind Cayetano.
Reps. Elpidio Barazaga, Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite, Michael Defensor of Anakalusugan and Edgar Erice of Caloocan City called for the postponement of the term sharing agreement.
But Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay, on the other hand, reminded Cayetano to honor the term-sharing agreement with Velasco with no conditions.
“Speaker Cayetano assumed the Speakership on the basis of the term-sharing agreement between him and Congressman Velasco. They agreed upon that arrangement as suggested by Cayetano himself. They agreed to this in front of no less than President Duterte himself. Cayetano did not carry the majority numbers at that time, and Congressman Velasco did not ask for that to be a condition before he agreed to the agreement. Now that his term is about to end and Congressman Velasco is about to begin his, why is the Speaker’s supporters questioning if Congressman Velasco has the numbers. It is totally unfair to make it a condition now,” Atienza said.
Atienza pointed out that the President’s intervention is needed now.
“Mr. President, please do not allow the breaking of this gentleman’s agreement to share terms. Otherwise, Congress is doomed to fail if palabra de honor and delicadeza are not followed,” Atienza added.