Velasco denies plotting oust-Cayetano coup amid ABS-CBN issue

MANILA, Philippines – Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco denied involvement in a supposed coup plot against Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano as the latter faces scrutiny over the ABS-CBN franchise issue.

In a statement on Thursday, February 27, Velasco claimed “certain camps with vested interests” were behind the alleged ouster plot rumors.

“To my kababayans (countrymen), these reports are far from the truth. The reports were meant to create deep division within the House of Representatives and its members, destroy camaraderie, distract lawmakers from fulfilling their mandate, and more importantly, derail the key legislative agenda of the Duterte Administration,” Velasco said.

The Marinduque lawmaker then said he had no intention of “reneging” on his term-sharing deal with Cayetano for the speakership.

“Up to this day, I continue to honor the term-sharing agreement brokered by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte when the 18th Congress convened in July 2019. From the beginning, I never had any intention of reneging on this agreement, said Velasco.

Tayo po ay lalaking may isang salita (I am a man of my word),” he added.

No less than President Duterte endorsed the term-sharing agreement for the speakership, with Cayetano leading the House for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress or up to October this year. Velasco will then take over as Speaker in the remaining 21 months.

Cayetano was Duterte’s losing running mate in the 2016 elections. Meanwhile, Velasco is a close family friend of the President.

In the past days, however, Cayetano has drawn flak as the House continued to sit on the bills that proposed the renewal of the soon-to-expire francise of media network ABS-CBN.  

Rumors going around in political circles said Velasco and his allies were supposedly taking advantage of the controversy to rally lawmakers against Cayetano.

But Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, Veladco’s ally in the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, told Rappler their bloc’s support for Cayetano stays solid 

“I do not see any issue regarding the handling of the franchise. We give our all out support for the Speaker,” said Pimentel in a text message to Rappler.

He then said the coup rumors is “just black propaganda.”

“Definitely there is no coup. I should know. It’s just black propaganda,” the PDP-Laban stalwart added.

Buhay Representative Lito Atienza had even said in a CNN Philippines interview that “maybe we should have a new Speaker” as he slammed the House’s inaction on the ABS-CBN franchise.

That remarks prompted Cayetano to say on Monday, February 24, that the ABS-CBN issue was being “used” to kick him out.

“The moment na ayaw na ko no’ng majority ng mga kongresista, aalis ako. Marami kaming namo-monitor na issues. Una sa budget. Ngayon naman, sa ABS na ginagamit para sabihin na time na umalis ako,” the Speaker said.

(The moment a majority of the congressmen don’t want me anymore, I would leave. We have been monitoring a lot of issues. First on the budget. Then now, the ABS-CBN issue is being used to say it’s time for me to leave.)

Two days later on Wednesday, February 26, Capiz 2nd District Representative Fredenil Castro delivered a privilege speech condemning what he said was a plan to block the release of funds for House members’ legislative projects this year.

“Mr. Speaker, last Monday, while I was in deep thought in the garden of our lower chamber, a butterfly landed on me,” Castro said in Filipino.

“This butterfly whispered something and according to it, there is a lost soul who is trying to block funding for the allocations of congressmen,” he added.

Castro, however, may be referring to a recent statement by the Department of Budget and Management saying it would first review P80 billion worth of funds realigned by lawmakers under the 2020 budget before allowing disbursement.

Possible reasons for a coup

Despite denials from the Velasco camp, they do have motives to try to oust Cayetano.

PDP-Laban is largerly losing its membership in the House as lawmakers continue jumping ship to parties like the National Unity Party, where Castro is a member, and the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, the party of speakership contender turned influential Majority Leader Martin Romualdez

Cayetano already said in the past that he was open to serving as Speaker until 2022. Ranking members of the House previously said it might be difficult to replace Cayetano as Speaker after the latter received a 62% trust rating and 64% approval rating in the September 2019 Pulse Asia survey.

Cayetano previously said the term-sharing deal still stood, yet it would be up to Duterte if the agreement with Velasco would be scrapped.

Malacañang, however, already said the President would leave it to lawmakers to decide if they still wanted to retain Cayetano as Speaker. — Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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