Ungentlemanly fight over a gentlemen’s agreement

Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Allan Velasco, congressmen of Taguig-Pateros and Marinduque, respectively, are like children fighting over the speakership of the House of Representatives as if it were a toy or a lollipop.

They are embroiled in a dispute over a gentlemen’s agreement and fighting it in an ungentlemanly manner.

The agreement was for Cayetano to serve as House speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, leaving to Velasco the remaining 20 months until June 2022. If the agreement was between gentlemen, Cayetano should be stepping down this month, but it appears that he wants to stay on, at least until December. Velasco has not shown a gentlemanly attitude of giving way to Cayetano.

Cayetano said he wants, for sentimental reasons, to still be the Speaker when he turns 50 years old on Oct. 28. While Cayetano cites his birthday as reason to keep the post, Velasco says he also wants to be Speaker on his next birthday on Nov. 9.

And when they could not agree, they ran back to the President who had brokered the speakership dispute and suggested the term-sharing scheme in July 2019.

Velasco seemed to have the numbers then, and the support of the President’s daughter, Sara, mayor of Davao City and founder of Hugpong ng Pagbabago political alliance. Cayetano appeared to have the backing of the President and his son Paolo, a deputy speaker, which helped him get the votes and become speaker.

The squabble took a different turn when Cayetano offered to resign on Sept. 30 but, at the same time, chided Velasco to show that he has the numbers to get him elected. As if on cue, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor moved to reject Cayetano’s resignation and subsequent voting yielded 184 votes to affirm his continued leadership.

That was nothing more than a charade. Cayetano’s theatric wasted too much time and public money that should have been spent on discussions for meaningful pieces of legislation such as the budget for 2021.

Per the gentlemen’s agreement, Velasco need not get fresh votes but a smooth transition to the speakership as Cayetano steps down.

Instead of stepping down, Cayetano has been fighting to stay on. And his statements were far from being gentlemanly and diplomatic. "Cong Velasco told the President that he is ready. Then I think the best time to prove it is now. Gusto mo ng September 30? Sige. If colleagues want you today, sige, ikaw na," Cayetano said at one point in his extemporaneous privilege speech, narrating a part of their meeting in Malacanang on Sept. 29.

Wanting a show of support, Cayetano went on, saying: "I am offering my resignation here and now to you, my dear colleagues. My fate and the fate of the 2021 budget and leadership of the House is in your hands."

But as he offered to resign, he said: "So I can step aside, but I can't guarantee he will be elected. In fact, I will make a fearless forecast: Hindi siya mananalo. Or if I step aside, mananalo, after one week, makukudeta siya. Bakit? Maraming popular sa Kongreso eh.”

Why does Cayetano want to stay on at least until the end of 2020? Obviously, he is clinging to the post because he wants to keep his priorities intact in the proposed budget for 2021. In short, it’s all about money.

It’s unfortunate that Velasco is not a better option to Cayetano. He has yet to prove himself worthy of the 4th highest position in government. He has not even been active in legislative debates and discussions.

Cayetano and Velasco have undermined the integrity and credibility of the House of Representatives with their petty and trivial quarrel over the speakership, and they do so for purely personal reasons in the guise of public service.

If other congressmen truly care for the House and the country, can they stand up and demand a new election, with Cayetano and Velasco out of the race? Based on their ungentlemanly behavior as they salivate for the House speakership, Cayetano and Velasco have shown that they are not worthy to be on the 4th line of succession to the presidency.

You can’t trust ungentlemanly persons to honor a gentlemen’s agreement.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.

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