MANILA – Lawmakers from different political parties on Wednesday expressed their support for Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to keep his post as top leader of the House of Representatives throughout the 18th Congress despite an existing term-sharing agreement with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta said the “gentleman’s agreement” between Cayetano and Velasco that was forged in 2019 did not predict the “onslaught of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic that is still ravaging the country to this day.”
Marcoleta noted that a change in leadership would prove to be difficult in the face of this health crisis.
“Covid-19 taught us that the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ is not the test of leadership in the House of Representatives; it is the way how we gallantly resolve the problems it brought about. This is the consequence of leadership,” Marcoleta said.
“May kasabihan po tayo na mahirap magpalit ng kapitan sa gitna ng umaalimpuyong bagyo (There is a saying that it is difficult to change captains in the middle of a turbulent storm). I know that in another time, the star of my friend (Velasco), will still shine the brightest. After all, he has the youth and vitality on his side,” he added.
Marcoleta said in the last six months, the support for Speaker Cayetano was vital to enact the crucial pieces of legislation that will “secure our survival as a people” in this Covid-19 situation.
“Even under the Covid threat and via Zoom, Congress disposed and discussed critical issues that confronted the nation, including ABS-CBN, Meralco, PhilHealth and now, the 2021 Budget,” he said. “The arena is where all the gladiators are, fighting for the people’s cause, not in the gallery comfortably watching the turn of events. No guts, no glory–so they say.”
In a manifestation during Wednesday’s plenary session, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice of the Liberal Party said the term-sharing agreement should be postponed amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are all aware of it. However, in the interest of this House and the interest of the Filipino people who are in dire need of our prompt actions in confronting the pandemic, I think this agreement should make way for the tested leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano,” Erice said.
Erice highlighted that Cayetano’s leadership skills are indispensable during these trying times as he urged his colleagues to unite for the incumbent Speaker.
“Congressman Velasco’s aspirations can wait. He is young, brilliant and only in his second term. In God’s time, he will shine, but not for now,” he added.
National Unity Party (NUP) President and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said his party will continue to support Cayetano in the remaining months of the 18th Congress.
“Ang aming samahan, ang National Unity Party, ang kauna-unahang partido ang nag-endorso at nagsabi na aming sinusuportahan ang kandidatura ni Alan Peter Cayetano bilang ating Speaker (Our group, the National Unity Party, is the first party ever to endorse and support the candidacy of Alan Peter Cayetano as Speaker),” Barzaga said.
“Kaya sa nalalabing 21 buwan… muli na naman naming susuportahan ang liderato ni Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (In the remaining 21 months…again we express our support to the leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano),” he added.
Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor pointed out that Congress’ high ratings can be credited to the leadership of Cayetano.
“Tayo po sa majority ay sumuporta kay Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. At nakita naman po natin ang pagpapatakbo sa liderato, hindi lang po para sa ating indibidwal na interes bilang kinatawan ng bawat distrito pero sa koletibong interes ng ating Kongreso (We, in the majority, have supported Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. And we saw how he let not just for the individual interests of representatives, but also for the collective interest of this Congress),” Defensor said.
Lawmakers from all seven districts of Cavite (Reps. Barzaga, Abraham Tolentino, Jesus Remulla, Strike Revilla, Alex Advincula, Luis Ferrer IV, and Francis Abaya) have signed a manifesto of support for Cayetano.
The lawmakers highlighted that Cayetano’s leadership and multi-partisan approach in solving issues and discharging the legislative mandate have enabled Congress to be a “valuable partner” of President Rodrigo Duterte in nation-building.
“Speaker Cayetano has been a dependable ally of this administration, garnering a high approval rating of 62 percent. He led this Congress to become one of the most productive yet,” they said.
“He also personally led and shepherd the swift passage of the Bayanihan Act in support of the government’s efforts to address the effects of the Covid pandemic,” they added.
The lawmakers said Cayetano’s “competence, dedication, and leadership” would be indispensable as Congress works side by side with President Duterte to pursue socio-economic and political reforms.
“For these reasons, we reiterate our trust, confidence, and support of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, to complete his full term as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress,” they added.
The ongoing House leadership row was allegedly triggered by the disagreements among congressmen over inequitable budget allocations for their respective districts under the proposed PHP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
Velasco finally broke his silence amid the alleged coup threat against Cayetano, saying “my silence does not mean I am disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant.”
Velasco also responded to the claim of the Cayetano camp that supports for the incumbent Speaker has been strong due to his outstanding leadership.
“When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse. Thereafter, at the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately, to the Filipino people,” Velasco said.
Under the term-sharing deal brokered by Duterte, Cayetano would serve as the House Speaker for the first 15 months or until October 2020, while Velasco would take over and assume the position for the remaining 21 months or until the 18th Congress ends in 2022. (PNA)