Speakership race: A proxy war between Sara, Cabinet? | Malaya Business Insight

Vigilia, W. (2019, July 11). Speakership race: A proxy war between Sara, Cabinet? Malaya Business Insight. Retrieved July 11, 2019 from https://www.malaya.com.ph/business-news/news/speakership-race-proxy-war-between-sara-cabinet

Speakership race: A proxy war between Sara, Cabinet?
By WENDELL VIGILIA – July 11, 2019

A LAWMAKER who supported the speakership bid of Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Tuesday night claimed that he received a text message quoting presidential daughter Mayor Sara Duterte as saying that lawmakers should defy President Duterte’s decision to pick Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano as the speaker of the 18th Congress.

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said someone “very close” to Sara Duterte texted him a statement supposedly coming from her asking lawmakers to vote according to their conscience in the speakership race.

“Kaya nanawagan siya ngayon sa lahat ng mga Congressmen na bumoto ayon sa kanilang kagustuhan dahil ang (kanyang) ama ay na set-up lamang ng mga gahaman na Gabinete na kaalyado ni Cayetano (That’s why she is now urging congressmen to vote for the candidate that they want because her father was merely set up by some greedy members of the cabinet who are Cayetano’s allies),” the supposed message from the presidential daughter said.

Defensor showed the statement to reporters who covered the congressmen’s appreciation party for former speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Manila Hotel.

Sara is at loggerheads with some members of the cabinet who reportedly pressured her father to pick Cayetano on the belief that they will be able to protect their interests in the annual national budget which is annually reviewed and approved by the House.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza earlier said this clique in the cabinet wants to protect their insertions in the budget, a practice that was unearthed in the 17th Congress under Arroyo.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has denied meddling in the speakership race after his name was dragged into the controversy last week, along with Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, among others.

But Sara denied that the statement came from her, telling Defensor to “stop sowing intrigue” and name the source of the text message who was erroneously reported earlier yesterday as a neophyte congressman.

“I call on Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor to stop sowing intrigue and to name the source in his pronouncements to allow people to verify the truth of his claim. Give us the name of the neophyte member of the House of Representatives from whom you received a text message with a supposed message coming from me. A responsible individual would have asked me if there is truth to the text,” Sara said.

The younger Duterte said it was not she who was in “panic” mode hours before her father announced that Cayetano will share the post with Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco last Monday.

She said Defensor was the one who reached out to her through a common friend, lawyer Charo Munsayac, to make last-minute requests for Romualdez’ bid “(to) which I said that I will not interfere in that matter.”

The presidential daughter even attached the screenshots of her conversation with Munsayac to prove her claim.

“After the meeting, Rep. Defensor reached out again and I recognized that he was trying to light a fire about the term sharing decision that came out of the meeting last Monday. I played dumb to end the conversation,” Sara said.

Had she wanted to say something about what happened last Monday, Sara said she “will not cowardly hide behind an alleged “panawagan (call).”

“I reiterate for Rep. Defensor to name his source because I have a reputation to protect and I have the right to confront a person who is spreading disinformation. Otherwise, we can all say that you are your own source,” she said.

Defensor apologized to the presidential daughter “if I have in anyway offended her with my statement.”

He denied reports quoting him as saying the text message came from a neophyte congressman, saying he only mentioned the word “congressman” when he told reporters that two party-list lawmakers were discussing the purported plan of Sara’s newly-formed Duterte Coalition to challenge Duterte’s decision to select Cayetano.

“I did not say it came from her or a congressman. In fact, I should not have shown it because reading it again, it had Inday Sara’s name. I did say though that there was another person who got the same message. I apologize ma’am if I have offended you,” Defensor said.

The returning congressman added: “There were two party-list congressmen who discussed the Duterte Coalition’s continued fight and for us to join. I cannot name them as we have agreed on the confidentiality of our discussion.”

Defensor admitted reaching out to the presidential daughter, through Munsayac, to try to convince her to support Romualdez who was picked by the President as majority leader.

“I admit to this fact. I didn’t want to bother Atty. Charo, who is my lawyer and a good friend of the mayor, as regards political concerns but the turn of events on the speakership fight has left me and many of my colleagues confused and nonplussed on the matter,” he said.

A reliable source said the mayor’s camp was just testing the waters by sending the text message through one of her close allies.

The source said the presidential daughter is angry that the cabinet men were able to pull a fast one on her when Duterte picked Cayetano, who will share the three-year term as speaker with Velasco who may be elected as senior deputy speaker while waiting for his turn to serve as speaker.

The same source said among those who heavily lobbied for Cayetano was former special assistant to the President and now neophyte Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

Sara’s party endorsed Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab to be the speaker but he is likely to be appointed chair of the powerful committee on appropriations which he used to chair in the past.

In a text message, Sara admitted that her Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) party’s stand against the term-sharing agreement still stands.

As a result of the President’s decision, former majority leader Fred Castro of Capiz, who was among the supporters Romualdez, is now thinking about running for minority leader.

Castro said some of his colleagues have suggested that he seek the minority leadership “to maintain a credible balance of opinion on all issues that the House of Representatives maybe called upon to resolve.

“I am seriously studying whether I could maintain my balance considering the hairline difference between being a minority member from an opposition. This is because critical collaboration as distinguished from being destructive is called for. I will wait for guidance if I am capable of responding to this Macedonian call as part of my service to my country,” he said.

The minority leader traditionally comes from the opposition but this practice changed when congressmen amended the rules to allow congressmen who are “friendly” or are even close to the administration to be the duly recognized minority which somehow stifles dissent at the House.

Another Romualdez supporter, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, said the committee chairmanships will likely remain the same throughout the term-sharing period.

“The way the committees are being negotiated is that they will stay there without being affected by the term-sharing. There is no term-sharing in the committee level,” Salceda told ANC.

Salceda said Romualdez wants him to be a deputy speaker since the appropriations chairmanship might go to Ungab.

He lauded the President for stepping in to save the House from division, saying he prevented a “bloody speakership fight” when session opens on July 22.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s endorsement of the House Speaker for the 18th Congress leaves “no doubt” that he is a dictator, Sen. Leila de Lima said.

“Is there still doubt that the President is a dictator? Is there still doubt that our constitutional checks and balances have been thrown in the garbage?” De Lima said in a dispatch from her detention cell at Camp Crame.

Sen. Richard Gordon did not cast judgment on Duterte, but on Tuesday, he questioned the independence of the congressmen and the propriety of asking the President to resolve their struggle for the House leadership. – With Vince Nonato

Category: National | Malaya Business Insight

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