MANILA, Philippines — Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco rejected a proposal of President Duterte for a “term-sharing” agreement for the House speakership, according to Congressman-elect Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig.
Cayetano disclosed this yesterday in a meeting with neophyte congressmen and other lawmakers in Clark, Pampanga, which he hosted.
He said the term-sharing agreement was offered to him and Velasco during Duterte’s recent visit to Japan.
“Kung ako ang masusunod, magte-term sharing na lang kayo kasi pare-pareho kayong may ino-offer, pare-pareho ko kayong kaibigan,” Cayetano quoted Duterte as telling them in private.
“He was referring to me and Lord Velasco. But he has a different idea, so I respect that,” Cayetano told journalists in a chance interview, in effect shutting out Leyte congressman-elect Martin Romualdez, another aspirant for speaker.
Cayetano said he was surprised that Velasco rejected the offer because he himself conceptualized it.
“Nasabi ko sa ating Pangulo na payag ako, kahit I was expecting three years na hati kami ni (I told the President that I am amenable to it, although I was expecting to divide the three years between me and) Allan Velasco,” he said.
The original plan was for Cayetano to be the first to sit as speaker, then Velasco.
“I can’t talk about the specifics in Japan, but I can tell you guys only in general terms,” he explained further.
In a related development, returning congressman Mike Defensor – now first nominee of party-list Anakalusugan – said that among the contenders for next speaker, Cayetano and Romualdez both have the advantage owing to their experience.
“They are all my friends and can serve as speaker. But Congressmen Martin Romualdez and Alan Cayetano have the leadership depth and the capacity to navigate the House in terms of needed legislation,” the ex-Quezon City congressman and presidential chief of staff said.
“They have the experience, competence and caliber to lead the members of the House,” he said. “The next speaker should be speaker from day one. He should know what to do the very minute he sits as the fourth highest official of the land.”
Defensor nevertheless said Romualdez has the most excellent interpersonal relationship with his colleagues, citing the manifesto of support for the latter to be the next speaker signed by more than 156 lawmakers.
“When you speak of speakership, you need to have an excellent interpersonal relationship with each and every member of the House and clearly with the mandate given to Romualdez, it goes to show his good relationship with the majority of lawmakers,” he said.
He said interpersonal relationship is crucial in shepherding the swift passage of President Duterte’s important legislative measures.
This was echoed by House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, who agreed that interpersonal relationships were crucial to the character of the next speaker.
The ruling PDP-Laban is eyeing an alliance with other political groups to capture the House leadership in the incoming 18th Congress, which convenes on July 22.
House sources told The STAR yesterday that the administration party is in talks with the 54-member Party-list Coalition (PLC) headed by Rep. Mikee Romero of 1-Pacman and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).
A PDP-Laban congressman said the two groups are agreeable to an alliance with the administration party.
“We will have more than the majority vote needed to elect the next speaker and other officers, including committee chairmen and our representatives in the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Commission on Appointments if the PLC and NPC are with us,” the congressman said.
He said PDP-Laban is offering concessions to the two groups, including possibly the position of majority leader to the Romero bloc.
The administration party, he said, considers NPC as a “natural ally,” since Velasco – one of PDP-Laban’s three candidates for speaker – and his wife “are close friends of RSA.”
The lawmaker is referring to billionaire Ramon Ang, president and chief executive officer of food conglomerate San Miguel Corp., whose chairman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. founded NPC in 1992 and remains as its chairman emeritus.
The ruling party’s two other candidates for speaker are reelected Reps. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga, whom PDP-Laban president Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. has just appointed as the party’s national executive vice president, and Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte.
The administration party has the most number of members in the incoming House.
By the count of Gonzales and Pimentel, it has 84 or 85.
However, according to Rep. Jericho Nograles of Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta, it has 95.
The coalition of party-list representatives is the second biggest group with 54 members. It has authorized Romero, its president, to discuss its “concerns and aspirations” with all aspirants for speaker.
“We are the game changer in the speakership race,” Nograles said.
He said the Villars’ Nacionalista Party has 37 House members, NPC has 33, National Unity Party 28, Liberal Party 18, Lakas five and the leftist Makabayan bloc has six members.
PDP-Laban, PLC and NPC would have a total of 171 lawmakers, more than the majority of the incoming House, which is expected to have 305 or 306 members.
“That will be a formidable alliance. If we are able to do it, other members will jump onto our bandwagon,” the PDP-Laban source said.
He admitted that other speaker aspirants might be trying to form a coalition with other political groups.
“But we have the advantage because we are the biggest bloc in the House,” he said. – With Jess Diaz