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Speaker’s offer for Cayetano to be deputy speaker stands

NEWLY-installed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Friday night his offer for Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano to be deputy speaker still stands.

“Yes, of course. He’s (Cayetano) the former speaker and I truly believe that he deserves the position,” Velasco told House reporters in an ambush interview when asked if the deputy speaker post remains open to Cayetano.

Velasco was interviewed after presiding the plenary session during which the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.

The House leader said Cayetano could also choose to be chairman of a congressional committee.

“He (Cayetano) can choose either a committee chairmanship or a deputy speaker position,” he said.

ABANTE STEPS DOWN AS MINORITY LEADER

During his turno en contra speech on the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 on Friday, House Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. announced his decision to join the supermajority.

“Mr. Speaker, before I wrap up let me reiterate that I have full trust in the new leadership in its pursuit of a legislative agenda that is not only pro-people, but more importantly, responsive to the need to provide effective and sufficient interventions to control the COVID pandemic,” Abante said.

“And there is no better symbol of this trust than an expression of intent to join the Majority so I could be more proactive in providing urgently-needed legislation and Congressional oversight. On the instance that the Majority Leader favorably acts on this prayer, may I say, ako po ngayon ay sasama sa majority.”

“This, my friends, is a difficult decision for this representation as I have come to think of the Minority Bloc as my extended family here in the House. Marami po ang ating pinagdaanan, and I will always cherish the time we worked together,” Abante said as he expressed hope that the minority bloc will “judiciously choose their next leader.”

Reliable sources at the House of Representatives said Abang Lingkod party-list Joseph Stephen Paduano will be nominated to the position of Abante.

VELASCO SAYS ALL IS WELL WITH HIM AND CAYETANO

Velasco said all is well now between him and Cayetano since their last meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.

“Like what I said last time during one of my speeches, I said I’m extending my healing hand to former Speaker Cayetano and I did,” Velasco said.

The recent meeting with Duterte transpired after the 186 House members ratified Velasco’s election as Speaker and Cayetano tendered his irrevocable resignation.

Velasco thanked Duterte for all his help in making sure the term-sharing agreement he brokered would be followed.

“I’m thankful to the President because he was there again to mediate between the two of us and he patched things up that’s why I’m glad and thankful to the President and former Speaker Cayetano,” Velasco said.

Meanwhile, Velasco said there will be no reorganization among deputy speakers and committee chairmen until the session resumes next month.

“As of now, wala muna tayong gagalawin because we want to have unity and harmony within the members,” Velasco said.

“During the recess, we will still check the committee memberships because sometimes we see na mayroong parang mas maraming nakukuhang positions na medyo hindi naman fair sa iba,” Velasco added.

However, Velasco said that should he find nothing irregular in the composition of committee chairmanships, “then they will just remain the same.”

Velasco also disclosed that the Super Majority Coalition in the House is now composed of 286 to 289 lawmakers after he extended his “healing hand” through the help of House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez who bridged him to the members of various political parties, including the National Unity Party (NUP), Nacionalista Party (NP), and Liberal Party (LP).

“Sabi ko nga po hindi puwedeng maging isang Kongreso na watak-watak,” Velasco said.

“Sa panahon ngayon, especially sa COVID, kinakailangang iisa kami, isang buo ang Kongreso nang sa gayon ‘yung pagpasa namin ng mga bills ay talagang mapabilis.”