Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte on Thursday refused to take sides in the ongoing speakership tussle at the House of Representatives.
In a statement, Duterte, the representative of the 1st District of Davao City, said while Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco has the right to assert his claim to the speakership in line with the 15-21 term-sharing agreement, imcumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano still has the support of a “considerable number” of lawmakers.
“As I am all for a unified House, and given the value, I place in every member of Congress, I refuse to make any statement that will favor or damage either of my two good friends who are both asserting their right to be our Speaker,” he added.
Duterte said he was saddened that the chamber is “currently mired” in the speakership dispute, which has divided House members.
“Due to this issue on the term-sharing agreement, Congress is currently mired in what seems to be a battle between two people I’m close with,” Duterte said. “I am saddened that it has come to this —a House divided. And if we remain a House divided, we will fail in our mandate to serve the people as their representatives.”
Duterte said in the event that lawmakers are called to select the top leader of the House of Representatives, they should vote for a Speaker that can unify the chamber.
“When the day comes that we are called to select the leader of this House, I hope we vote for someone who is committed, who understands what we want to achieve for our constituents, and who can fight for and with us, and unify the 300 members of this House,” he said.
He also asked his colleagues to remain respectful and support whoever is the Speaker whatever the result of that election.
“At the end of this episode, I hope we can go beyond politics and remember that more than power, it is the relationships we’ve formed in these halls of Congress and our duties to the people, that matter most,” he said.
Duterte earlier confirmed that he would ask the Mindanao bloc to move to declare the position of Cayetano and 22 Deputy Speakers vacant due to inequitable budget allocations for the legislative districts of congressmen under the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
However, no motion was raised to declare leadership posts, including the speakership, at the lower chamber vacant during the September 21 session.
The supposed speakership turnover for Velasco was set on October 14, but the House suspended its session until November 16.
The House has also approved the 2021 General Appropriations bill on second reading.
Under the term-sharing deal brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte, Cayetano would serve as the House Speaker for the first 15 months, or until October 2020, while Velasco would take over and assume the highest position at the House of Representatives for the remaining 21 months or until 18th Congress ends in 2022.