House in grim state on eve of speakership tussle’s end

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY

On the eve of the news breaking conclusion of leadership tussle between Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Rep. Lord Alan Velasco, main doors in the House of Representatives were locked and the plenary session hall was dim or completely lightless.

The grim scenario was exposed by Magundanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu in video clips he posted in his Facebook page a few hours after Velasco was voted into the speakership by 186 members Tuesday morning.

One of the video footages showed Rep. Mangudadatu removing the wooden locks of one main door, while another depicted him in huddle with his staff and some House security men were huddle inside the dim, empty plenary session hall.

“Bakit ganito ginawa sa House of Congress, wala silang karapatan na kandaduhan at i-lock ito. Hindi naman nila bahay ito,” Rep. Mangudadatu averred in a one-line message accompanying the video clips.

Earlier in the day (Tuesday) at about 11:43a.m., 186 House members convened somewhere else in Quezon City, declared the speakership vacant and elected Velasco as speaker.

At around 11:52a.m., Cayetano announced his irrevocable resignation as speaker via social media live stream.

Cayetano in his video remarks said his resignation was meant to honor the “gentlemen’s agreement” on term-sharing between him and Velasco that was brokered by President Duterte in 2019.

But Velasco supporters and even laymen observers described the leadership change as “ouster” action, not by the resignation of Cayetano.

Cayetano offered his resignation as speaker in a privilege speech early this month, but his supporters voted down his offer and conducted nominal voting with over 180 members opting to sustain him as speaker.

The Velasco camp kept questioning Cayetano for not honoring the term-sharing covenant via separate statements publicized by traditional and social media outlets.

Meantime, Cayetano and his supporters passed on second reading the 2021 national budget bill, and declared a recess until November.

Velasco, his supporters and reportedly including even members who earlier rejected Cayetano’s resignation offer had protested the passage of the national budget without the traditional presentation by sponsorships as well as the way House recess was declared.

Senate leaders also lamented that Cayetano’s declaration of recess would leave the Upper Chamber in dilemma to pass the budget law.

In another meeting with the protagonists over the speakership in Malacañang, President Duterte was reported as warning them to settle the sispute themselves or he will make his own way for the sake of the budget, which contains largely fund proposals bankrolling measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.  (AGM)

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