Congress' integrity at stake amid House speakership row, says lawmaker

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29)— Congress’ integrity may be affected if the term-sharing deal between incumbent House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and slated successor Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco is not honored, a member of the chamber warned on Tuesday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza called on Cayetano to abide by the “gentlemen’s agreement,” saying it would be unfair for the parties to change the rules of the contract at the very last minute.

“When a contract is reneged by the institution itself, and by the leadership, then there’s nothing more to look forward to,” Atienza said in an interview with The Source.

“To put a condition, make it into a different term of agreement, an additional cost in the contract is not fair..." he added. "You cannot adjust, especially in the end of the contract. I ask Speaker Cayetano, honor your words, Speaker.” 

Atienza likewise argued that the speakership issue— including power talks— should not be the main talking point, as he stressed the need for the legislative branch to uphold its honor and credibility.

Hindi importante ‘yang speakership, that’s not the issue," he stressed. "Hindi importante ‘yung power. Ang importante rito, the institution of Congress must be upheld. Its integrity must be protected. There was a term-sharing agreement, we should all respect and honor that.”

[Translation: The speakership is not important, that’s not the issue. Power is not important. What’s important is that the institution of Congress must be upheld. Its integrity must be protected.]

"Popularity or following is not the issue here. The issue here is the word of honor, and a gentlemen’s agreement, usapang lalaki," he added.

Cayetano and Velasco got entangled in a fresh controversy regarding the House leadership, after rumors of an alleged ouster plot against the current speaker surfaced. Some lawmakers, including Cayetano himself, accused Velasco of staging a coup to take over the post early.

Velasco, for his part, also called for the upholding of the “crystal clear” 15-21 speakership agreement, brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte himself at the start of the 18th Congress last year. The two solons are set to meet with the chief executive this Tuesday, but no other details were provided as of this writing.

A supermajority of lawmakers at the chamber have also expressed support for Cayetano’s continued leadership. The House also vowed the timely passage of the proposed 2021 national budget in line with the chief executive’s appeal.

READ: ‘Pass 2021 budget on time,’ Palace tells House amid speakership controversy

More solons seen to back Cayetano manifesto

Meanwhile, another House member said he believes the joint manifesto issued in support of Cayetano would gain more signatories.

House Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte said he expects the document to gain backing from around 230 lawmakers, with at least 210 signatures already on deck.

Villafuerte also urged the concerned parties to “honor the voice of the majority,” noting that even agreements are also subject to change.

“It’s true, there was an agreement. But at the end of the day, is it good for the country to have a change now?” Villafuerte said in the same program, citing Cayetano’s strong legislative track record.

"Things can change," he said.