'Wala akong magagawa:' Duterte won't interfere if Velasco loses chance to be House Speaker

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 22) — President Rodrigo Duterte has nothing left to do should House members decide not to honor last year's term-sharing deal for the Speaker's seat.

"He's hoping na tutupad sa usapan ang partido, pero kung wala pong numbers si Congressman Lord Allan (Velasco) ay wala po siyang magagawa [He's hoping they will follow to the party's compriomise, but if Congressman Lord Allan doesn't have enough votes, the President can't do anything about that]," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during his Tuesday briefing, quoting Duterte's words.

Rumors of an ouster plot against incumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano swirled at the chamber over the weekend. Presidential son and Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte said fellow congressmen were lamenting to him why some districts will get more projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways next year, prompting him to threaten to declare Cayetano's seat vacant.

Cayetano believes Velasco — who is set to take the Speaker's seat after his stint ends in October — is behind such calls. "From their (Velasco's) side, gusto nila, gentleman’s agreement daw. Sumunod ako. Pero I think, pangatlo o pang-apat na coup attempt na nila ‘to e," he said.

[Translation: From their (Velasco's) side, they want a gentleman's agreement. I followed. But I think this is the third or fourth coup attempt against me already.]

Duterte brokered the two lawmakers' term-sharing deal, with his 2016 election running mate Cayetano taking the first 15 months as Speaker and the remaining 21 months left to Velasco.

"Ultimately, the decision will be up to the individual congressmen," Roque added, pointing out that solons then were still feeling their way as the 18th Congress opened.

The ouster calls are reportedly tied to the unequal funding for congressional districts under the ₱4.506 trillion national budget. However, Roque said the 2021 spending plan actually came from Malacañang, with Congress authorized to make realignments.

The two Taguig districts under Cayetano and his wife Rep. Lani Cayetano were reportedly receiving ₱8 billion worth of projects, while his allies from Camarines Sur areas will get ₱11 billion under the proposed spending plan, as exposed by Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves.

"Kung anong kailangan nung lugar, 'yun ang gagawin natin [We will provide funding to what a certain area needs]," Cayetano said to counter these allegations.

However, PDP-Laban ally and House appropriations committee chair Rep. Eric Yap said he believes the ouster plot will not push through.