Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano — PHILSTAR
TAGUIG CITY 1st District Rep. Alan Peter S. Cayetano was voted speaker by an overwhelming majority at Monday’s opening of the 18th Congress, confirming President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s strong influence in the House of Representatives.
With 297 congressmen present, 266 voted for Mr. Cayetano, who was anointed by the President after weeks of wrangling over the House leadership.
The other nominee, Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante Jr., got 28 votes while two lawmakers abstained and one casted a “no-vote.”
The other bets for speakership — Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco, Leyte-1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, and Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Z. Duterte — nominated the Taguig City lawmaker.
During his nomination speech, the solon Duterte, son of the President, said he does not agree with the supposed term-sharing agreement between Mr. Cayetano and Mr. Velasco as suggested by his father.
“The term sharing agreement, the one between Congressman Cayetano and Velasco with the President, I am against any term-sharing agreement. However, if the speaker resigns after 15 months, then we have to elect a new speaker,” said the presidential son.
Under the deal, Mr. Cayetano will serve for the first 15 months while Mr. Velasco will have the post in the next 21 months.
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Cayetano assured that the House is “partners” with the Duterte administration after reading the bible verse under Matthew 6:33.
“In layman’s terms, it’s very simple when we say seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, we are saying… let us do what is right. People love their congressmen, but they love to hate Congress… Let us change that because this is the House of the People,” he said.
Mr. Cayetano also appealed for help and cooperation from his colleagues within his “15 months” as speaker.
Mr. Velasco, for his part, said he is hopeful that he will still have the majority’s support after 15 months.
“I’m not giving up, we had the gentleman’s agreement. I respect the 15 months of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano,” said Mr. Velasco in a chance interview after the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday.
“Hopefully on the 15th month, he said will step down and like what I’ve said, we will go back to elections of the next House speaker,” he added.
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos T. Zarate, on the other hand, said that many things could happen in 15 months.
The speakership position is “very precarious,” he said, “even if it is already clear na 15-21 yan, who can say na (that) in 15 months, wala ng mangyayari (nothing else will happen).”
Meanwhile, Mr. Romualdez was elected as majority leader.
Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro T. Ungab will manage the committee on appropriations while Tagaytay City Rep. Abraham N. Tolentino will head the committee on accounts.
Elected deputy speakers are Mr. Duterte, Ferdinand L. Hernandez, Evelina G. Escudero, Loren B. Legarda, Conrad M. Estrella III, Prospero A. Pichay Jr., Roberto V. Puno, Eduardo C. Villanueva, Aurelio D. Gonzales Jr., Johnny T. Pimentel, and Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr.
For the minority positions, Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Alfredo A. Garbin Jr. said they will be choosing the minority floor leader on Tuesday, with the group endorsing Mr. Abante.
“Bukas (tomorrow) after the SONA (State of the Nation Address), we will constitute ourselves as the minority and we will elect among ourselves a minority leader,” Mr. Garbin said in a briefing on Monday.
The 28 opposition congressmen will also vote for the seven deputy minority and the four assistant minority leaders.
Mr. Garbin also said that Mr. Cayetano has assured him that the minority will be given chairmanship in major committees, one of which would be the committee on ethics and privileges. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras and Gillian M. Cortez