MANILA - Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, with whom Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has a term-sharing agreement for the leadership of the House of Representatives, explained Tuesday his silence while the latter is at the helm of the chamber.
An ally of Cayetano, Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte from Camarines Sur, said earlier in the day that Velasco "was never really active in Congress" after the 15-21 term-sharing deal was announced last year.
Villafuerte issued the remarks as he claimed that "the supermajority of congressmen now would like Speaker Alan Cayetano to continue" as their leader, amid rumors of an early change in House Speakership after some lawmakers complained over budget allocations for Taguig, from where Cayetano is, and Camarines Sur.
"I have been silent during the duration of the Gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker," Velasco said in a statement.
"My silence does not mean I am disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant."
As endorsed last year by President Rodrigo Duterte, the turnover of House Speakership from Cayetano to Velasco is supposed to happen next month.
According to Velasco, "mum on issues" means he just does "not want to call attention to himself" since a party to the term-sharing agreement "does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman's agreement is in force."
"We will have our turn at the right time," he said.
Villafuerte had said that Velasco "should have been active and partnered with the Speaker in working in Congress."
"Since I became a lawmaker, I have worked quietly, away from publicity, to support this administration and help accomplish the legislative agenda of President Duterte to improve the lives of the Filipino people," Velasco said.
"When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse," he added.
"At the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately, to the Filipino people."
Duterte on Monday expressed hope Cayetano and Velasco will keep their word, and honor the term-sharing deal.
But he admitted he cannot do anything if Velasco doesn't have the support of the majority in Congress.
Cayetano was Duterte's running mate in 2016, but he lost to Vice President Leni Robredo. He later served as Duterte's foreign minister until he decided to run for congressman.
The House power struggle made headlines this weekend after the President's son, Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte, reportedly said he would declare Cayetano's post vacant on Monday to pave the way for the election of a new Speaker due to bickering over the 2021 national budget.
The younger Duterte denied the reports, and Cayetano kept the Speakership on Monday.
- with a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News