In Cayetano vs. Velasco, Who's Winning the House Game of Thrones?

The swift passage of the budget has an implication on the rivalry.
(L-R) Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. (Facebook)

(UPDATE) Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco, but both allies of President Rodrigo Duterte both addressed the nation late Tuesday, at the end of a session that ratcheted up their rivalry for the House of Representatives leadership. It's a political Game of Thrones.

Cayetano on  effectively fought off an attempt by Velasco to take over his post by enforcing their gentleman's agreement. The incument House leader passed the 2021 national budget on second reading and suspended sessions until mid-November. His rival had hoped to assume the leadership on Oct. 14.

For Cayetano, the break will afford congressmen time to talk to Cabinet officials via Zoom about the particular concerns of their districts. The passage of the bill on Tuesday effectively terminated formal debates on the budget. "So huwag kayong mag-alala, may one-two punch tayo. Itong papel na ito at ang pagkausap sa kanila," the Speaker told his colleagues

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What's happening in the House?

Velasco said Cayetano "railroaded" the budget in a "desperate attempt to stay in power."

Cayetano and Velasco met with Duterte last week in Malacanang over the gentleman's agreement, which the chief executive brokered between his two allies. Cayetano was his 2016 running mate while Velasco is close to his daughter and political heiress, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

After the meeting, Velasco's camp said he was ready to assume the speakership on Oct. 14 and the term-sharing deal will be honored. Cayetano spoke in the House, offered to resign but was rebuffed by his allies so he stayed on.

The Marinduque congressman must gather enough support from his colleagues to unseat Cayetano, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. "So, it’s up to Congressman Lord Allan now to get the votes, if he can muster the votes," Roque said.

Velasco said Cayetano's actions on the budget violated rules on procedure and is contrary to transparency in the budgeting process.

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"The foregoing acts manifest Speaker Cayetano’s extreme desire to hold on and hang on to power in clear defiance of President Duterte’s desire for the passage of fair and equitable budget that serves nothing but the interests of the Filipino people," Velasco said in a statement.

Velaso said he is the leader of PDP-Laban, Duterte's party that is also the biggest bloc in the House Super Majority. "He knows very well that he no longer enjoys the trust and confidence of House members. This caper is the last nail to his coffin. Speaker Cayetano, you’re time is up."

What's in it for Duterte?

The President would have had a close ally at the top regardless of who between Cayetano and Velasco will become speaker. Traditionally, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has had close ties with the sitting president. Fidel Ramos had Jose de Venecia and Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino had Feliciano Belmonte.

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A supportive House ensured the passage of key legislation and under Cayetano, it was the first and second Bayanihan or pandemic response law. Velasco's term will encompass debates for the remaining tax reform packages among others.

In 2000, then Speaker Manny Villar led the impeachment of former President Joseph Estrada on corruption allegations. This illustrates the influence of the speaker to decide on an impeachment of impeachable officials.

Despite multiple impeachment complaints during her nine-year term as president, Arroyo stayed in power since her ally, De Venecia, was speaker.

The Speaker also wields influence over budget deliberations because the annual national budget is submitted to the House first. He or she makes sure there is funding for projects, both national and local.

As shown in the recent ABS-CBN franchise hearings, the Speaker sets the pace for such applications that span transportation and telecommunications. Franchise bills needs to pass the House before they are elevated to the Senate.

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