MANILA – Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro on Tuesday said the alleged move to declare leadership posts in the House of Representatives vacant would not lead into a successful transition, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Castro made the remark amid an ongoing House leadership row that was allegedly caused by the disagreements among congressmen over inequitable budget allocations for their respective districts under the proposed PHP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
“This [smooth transition] will never happen if they attempt to remove all the chairmen and deputy speakers in order to replace them with their own people,” Castro said in a privilege speech.
Castro noted that Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco’s camp has been readying its lineup for key positions in anticipation of possible change in leadership next month under the term-sharing deal brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte between Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and the Marinduque lawmaker.
“Ayon sa kanilang mapanlinlang na pahayag, mayroon na silang taga-pamahala na papalit sa mga kasamahan natin na ilang buwang naghihirap at patuloy na naghihirap para sa bayan. Kayo ba ang tinatawag na mga masusuwerte? Paano kayo naging handa kung hindi man lamang [kayo] kahit minsan nakipag-ugnayan or nagtangakang makipag-ugnayan sa kasalukuyang liderato upang mapag-usapan ang kanilang ipinagmamalaking kahandaan (According to their misleading statements, they have leaders ready our colleagues who worked for months for our nation. Are you lucky? How can you say you are ready when in fact you never coordinated with the current leadership to discuss your readiness),” Castro said.
Castro also questioned the leadership skills of Velasco once he takes over the helm of the lower chamber.
“The agreement between the Speaker and Cong. Velasco is between them. How can we trust Cong. Velasco to hold up his end of the deal, [to] not just be the new Speaker but to actually act like one? And that is the more important question,” Castro said. “Instead of being the leader he said he was, Cong. Velasco showed his true self. He did not work, he did not contribute, [and] he did not defend this House. He did not lead, so why would he expect us to follow him?”
Castro highlighted that Congress has never received such a “high trust and approval rating from the people than when Speaker Cayetano was at the helm”.
In an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel, Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte said the supermajority of congressmen wants Cayetano to continue instead of letting Velasco take over.
Villafuerte believes that Velasco will not be able to put up a good fight against Cayetano since he was “never really active in Congress.”
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.
In a virtual Palace briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte wanted his two allies, Cayetano and Velasco, to take turns in holding the highest position at the House of Representatives.
However, Roque said even if Duterte wanted the term-sharing agreement to be honored, he could not do anything if the “supermajority” of the lawmakers wants Cayetano to stay as House Speaker.
Roque said the fate of the next House Speaker will depend on the decision of the individual members of the House of Representatives. (PNA)