This weekend will be crucial for the camps of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as they are expected to keep themselves busy enlisting supporters for an anticipated plenary showdown for the speakership race.
While both camps have professed they are committed to use the four-day special session to pass the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act, there is no assurance that a change or retention of the leadership will not be part of their respective agenda.
October 14 has been widely believed as the day of reckoning in the House leadership conflict as this is the day Cayetano allegedly agreed to step down as speaker when he and Velasco met with President Duterte in Malacañang recently.
However, Velaasco no longer believes Cayetano’s vow to give up his post because of various developments that’s shows the Speaker’s determination to cling to the highest House post.
A source from the Cayetano camp revealed that party raids may take place in the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the PDP-Laban, and the Partylist Coalition Foundation, Inc.
Staunch Cayetano ally Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor has been tasked to recruit partylist solons to the incumbent Speaker’s side.
The move started after Cayetano removed PCFI president and 1Pacman Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero as deputy speaker.
AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin, a key leader of the PCFI, was also sacked as chairperson of the House Committee on Economic Affairs.
However, a loyalty check conducted by the current officers of PCFI indicated that only seven out of the 54 members of the organization have joined Defensor’s call for support for Cayetano.
The NPC’s strength has also been “softened” with the relief of party stalwarts Reps. Helen Tan and Eric Martinez as chairperson of the House Committee on Health and on Youth and Sports, respectively.
Deputy Speakers Aurelio Gonzales and Johnny Pimentel, both senior PDP-Laban solons, were counted by the Cayetano camp as its allies.
In a press statement Friday night, Velasco hinted that the plenary hall will no longer be the territory of the 30 allies of Cayetano.
“President Duterte’s marching orders to Speaker Cayetano is clear: Reopen Congress to its members,” Velasco said.
He also called for a “safe and secure plenary hall” that is in accordance with health protocols imposed by the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“The attendance of all lawmakers will enable them to meaningfully participate in the entire budget process and preparation, just like what the President wants, and not just to a small committee of hand-picked friends,” said Velasco who is eyeing the seat currently occupied by Cayetano.
For his part, Cayetano said lawmakers should not lose their concentration in passing the 2021 budget to politics.
But the Velasco camp has accused Cayetano of abbreviating the session days in order to evade being ousted on or before October 14, the day he had vowed to step down as speaker.
“We trust his wisdom on how to address issues concerning the budget, and thank him for his continued confidence by allowing Congress to pass the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) free from the specter of politicking and intrigues that we had originally sought to avoid,” the Speaker said.