House members exit Cayetano camp to back Velasco–source

LAWMAKERS are now jumping ship to support Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco against Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

A highly realiable source said Velasco now has the support of 186 lawmakers from different political parties in the lower chamber. These numbers are enough for Velasco to secure the Speaker’s post.

The source also said Velasco’s close friend Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte has started texting lawmakers asking them to support the Marinduque lawmaker’s speakership fight.

Last Friday, Velasco reportedly met with the President’s daughter in Davao City to pursue the 15-21 term-sharing deal.

In the view of Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, in calling for a special meeting of Congress, President Duterte has “strongly rebuffed” Cayetano, who earlier aborted House sessions to avoid a term-sharing agreement.

Atienza said Cayetano’s “highly irregular” cancellation of House sessions until November 16 “had imperiled the passage of the budget bill,” thus forcing the President’s hand.

“Through all sorts of political machinations, Congressman Cayetano has shamelessly reneged on his solemn promise—made before the President—to step down as Speaker after 15 months and give way to Congressman Velasco,” Atienza said.

The President on Friday called Congress to a special session on October 13 to 16, a day after he warned that he would step in to solve the House leadership dispute that was stalling the approval of the budget bill. The nation cannot afford a 2020 reenacted budget for next year, because the 2021 money measure bears vital provisions for continuing to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the President had said.

Atienza said that because Cayetano knew he could not muster enough votes on his   own to get elected as Speaker in July 2019, he agreed to the term-sharing pact with Velasco, with the President acting as the go-between.

Moral authority

Meanwhile,Oriental Mindoro 1st District Rep. Salvador Leachon said Cayetano has lost his “moral authority” to lead the House after he messed up in handling the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.

“Speaker Cayetano has miserably failed in his duty to lead the House in its mandate to review and pass the budget in the manner provided for in the Constitution and rules of the House,” said Leachon at the weekend.

Leachon said it was such a shame that Duterte had to intervene and call for a special session in order for the House to rectify “major mistakes” made by the current leadership.

“The President issuing Proclamation No. 27 is a clear indication that the suspension of session for more than a month did not sit well with him for being unconstitutional. There could no other interpretation except that the suspension was illegal and unconstitutional especially when the President said that it is incumbent for Congress to pass a budget through process that is legal and constitutional,” said Leachon.

Last October 6, the House abruptly terminated plenary deliberations and approved the budget bill on second reading and suspended the session until November 16.

Leachon said the move drew serious concerns from senators, economic managers and the business community, warning it could delay the passage of the spending plan designed to strengthen the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and may lead to a reenacted budget at the start of 2021.

After all that happened, Cebu City’s Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa said “Speaker Cayetano has failed in his sworn duty to uphold and defend the Constitution when he caused the railroading of the budget and suspended the session without giving all lawmakers the chance to scrutinize and allocate the budget properly,” Abellanosa said.

“With all due respect, I think the Speaker already lost his moral authority to lead the House,” added Abellanosa.

The Cebuano solon said the only option left for Cayetano is to resign.

Ako Probinsyano Party-list Rep. Jose Singson Jr. said Cayetano has failed House members and the people they represent in Congress following his mishandling of the 2021 budget.


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