Velasco denies agreeing to House speakership term-sharing deal with Cayetano

Robie de Guzman   •   July 1, 2019   •   1524

Marinduque Rep. Allan Lord Velasco,

Surigao del Sur 2nd district Representative Johnny Pimentel, who has been tasked to speak for Marinduque Rep. Allan Lord Velasco, said there was never a formal agreement between Velasco and Taguig Representative-elect Alan Peter Cayetano regarding speakership term-sharing as insisted by the latter.

“I already got the side of Congressman Velasco and he has told me to release a statement. There was never an agreement between the two of them… Congressman Velasco is firm na hindi naman sila nag-uusap,” Pimentel told UNTV News and Rescue in an interview.

Pimentel made the statement after Cayetano expressed disappointment with Velasco for not being faithful to what was supposedly agreed upon.

Last week, Cayetano said an agreement “in principle” was reached on the night of June 24 for a “15-21” term-sharing setup between him and Velasco.

The deal will allow Cayetano to lead the lower chamber for the first 15 months, and will pass it to Velasco who will take the helm in the remaining 21 months.

Cayetano said Velasco, as well as his wife, agreed to the proposal only to back out from it.

“It is for this reason that I am deeply disappointed that after we both expressed full agreement with the President’s proposal, Rep. Velasco and his wife are now making a turn around and won’t honor President’s wishes,” he said in a statement.

Duterte earlier said he has greenlighted the idea of term-sharing for speakership, seeing this as a win-win solution as he has decided not to endorse any candidate for the coveted post.

“Ito sabi ko. Maghati kayo ng term. Ang gusto ni Cayetano, mauna siya. But he will stay there just for 15 months. That’s what he committed. Si — and Velasco can have the — the other half which is not really as short as — 21 months. Sabihin ko mag-ano… Ganun ang proposal. Pumayag na si Cayetano but si Velasco mukhang last minute nag-back out,” the president said.

But according to Pimentel, it wasn’t right for Cayetano to speak with Velasco’s wife over the issue.

“I dont think that is right that you talked to the other person. I think they should talk to the candidate himself. Mahirap yung iba ang kausap niya,” he said.

Velasco earlier said he is not in favor of the proposed term-sharing as this was not the will of the majority of congressmen.

Apart from Cayetano and Velasco, also vying for the top House post are Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez, Pampanga Representative Aurelio Gonzales and Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez.

Meanwhile, Davao City 1st district Representative-elect Paolo Duterte blasted a “friend” for dragging his name into the speakership issue.

“Pakiusap lang po. Kung sino man ang gusto na idamay ako sa usapin ng speakership sa House of Representatives — huwag po ninyo akong gamitin. Huwag po ang pangalan ko,” Duterte said in a statement released on Sunday.

He then urged his fellow House members to vote for a leader who respects other people, especially women.

“Piliin po natin ang lider na may respeto sa kawpa, lalo na sa babae — kahit na asawa pa man ito ng kanyang kalaban,” he said.

House members are set to elect the next Speaker when the session of the 18th Congress opens on the morning of July 22, the same day when Duterte will deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address. (with details from Grace Casin)

‘Bitter Talaga Sila’: Cayetano slammed for riding on BTS popularity for clout

Marje Pelayo   •   January 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Seven lawmakers who previously held key positions in the House of Representatives (HOR) coined the slogans “Back to Service” and “Bayanihan, Tapang at Serbisyo” as their newest advocacy — these also coincidentally form the acronym “BTS”.

BTS is more popularly known as the acronym for Bangtan Boys, a South Korean pop group that is considered the biggest boy band in the world right now.

Meanwhile, the newly formed BTS political bloc in Congress — spearheaded by former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano — claims that the Lower House is not in its proper order of business nowadays.

The group wants to bring focus on more pressing issues such as economic recovery, COVID-19 response and prompt delivery of government services.

“Kung inuna niya ang hearing sa vaccination at sa PhilHealth, wala tayong problema. Inuna ang Cha-Cha,” Cayetano said of his successor House Speaker Allan Velasco.

READ: Cayetano steps down as House Speaker

Laguna Representative Dan Fernandez echoed the same sentiments.

“Kasi very important yung problema ng pandemic and that’s the reason why wala kaming sinasayang na oras. Pero ngayon isang buwan kaming bakasyon at magsisimula ang Kongreso sa Lunes wala kang narinig na hearing,” he said. 

All seven of them said they are part of a much larger group of colleagues in Congress who support their initiative.

“We are a bigger group. We have many sympathisers, supporters that are currently part of the leadership of the House. Marami kaming kasama na committee chairmen,” said Anak Kalusugan Partylist Mike Defensor.

They believe the HOR has lost its glory and they want to reinstate it through this advocacy.

“We want to bring back the House of Representative being the house of the people rather than the house of politics,” noted Camarines Sur Representative L-Ray Villafuerte.

“Pinatibay namin iyong grupo namin dahil iisa ang nararamdaman namin. Kailangang maramdaman ng mga tao na ang House of Representatives ay kasama nila sa anumang nararamdaman nila,” added Batangas Representative Raneo Abu.

On the other hand, Senior Deputy Speaker Doy Leachon defended Velasco’s push for charter change as he believes it can solve and improve the current state of the country’s economy.

“Cha-Cha is sincere to deal only with economic provisions and supported by party leaders because this is the most opportune and right time to address the high unemployment rate and closure of business as the constitutional amendments seek to address infusion of massive investment opportunities,” he said.

Leachon in a statement called Cayetano’s group “ungrateful” and “selfish”.

He said Cayetano should have been thankful that Velasco did not touch the “bloated budget” that the former inserted and crafted into the 2021 national budget.

“Moreover, Speaker Velasco, despite their demeaning personality attacks on him, didn’t even raise a finger for 15 months and just waited for the right time to assume as the head of Congress based on the term-sharing agreement. Yun ang tularan nila- maginoo,” Leachon said.

“Their BTS launch is insignificant as to derail the Velasco’s legislative agenda because the current leadership under Speaker Velasco has earned the respect of the members of the supermajority  because they lucidly see a decent man, not vindictive, working leader who has also a gentle heart to feel the needs of the House members. Hindi barkadahan lang,” he added.

Leachon advised the group not to ride on the popularity of the K-pop group BTS because their acronym might end up standing for: ‘Bitter Talaga Sila.’ MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Velasco files bills granting president power to suspend PhilHealth, SSS rate hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday said he has filed two separate bills seeking to grant the president the power to suspend the scheduled increases in the contribution rates of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Social Security System (SSS) in times of national emergencies.

In a statement, Velasco said his twin measures propose to amend Republic Act (RA) 11223 or the Universal Health Care Act, and RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018, which provide for gradual increases in monthly premium contributions in PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

The bills authorize the president to suspend the implementation of the scheduled increases in premium rates in times of national emergencies “when public interest so requires.”

But this should be in consultation with the secretaries of health and finance departments as chairpersons of PhilHealth and SSS, respectively.

The measures were filed after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the premium rate increase.

Velasco said RA 11223 was enacted in 2018 to ensure that all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health care goods and services, and protected against financial risk.

He said the intent of the law is clear and cannot be overemphasized—Filipinos need and deserve a comprehensive set of health services that are cost-effective, of high quality, and responsive.

The House speaker, however, stressed that the current situation is extraordinary and that Congress must respond accordingly as he called for the swift approval of the bills aimed at alleviating the financial burden faced by many Filipino workers amid the crisis.

“While we recognize that the [PhilHealth] only aims to implement the provisions of RA 11223, imposing a higher premium rate to our kababayans under our current conditions will definitely enforce a new round of financial burden to its members,” Velasco said in the explanatory note of House Bill 8316.

“Suspending the imposition of the new PhilHealth premium rates will provide a much-needed relief from the negative effects of the pandemic and will assure Filipinos that the government is sensitive to their sentiments,” he said.

In filing HB 8317, Velasco said the temporary suspension of the hike in SSS contributions will help the workforce achieve faster recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

“We are witnesses to the negative impact of this COVID-19 outbreak. Under this pretext, the sovereign government must be given the prerogative to bend the rules of the social security law in favor of the greater good,” Velasco said.

He likewise said that increasing the rate of contributions of SSS members will “strikingly undermine the recovery effort of everyone suffering from job losses, wage reduction, business closures, and health-related issues.”

Velasco backs Duterte order to suspend PhilHealth rate hike

Robie de Guzman   •   January 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to suspend the increase in the premium contributions of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) scheduled for this year.

“We laud President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for suspending the increase in PhilHealth premium contributions amid the COVID-19 crisis,” Velasco said in a press statement.


“The President has once again proved his sincere and genuine regard for the welfare of the Filipino people, especially in this time of pandemic,” he added.

Duterte on Monday night said the PhilHealth premium hike should be deferred amid the global health crisis.

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go earlier said the president expressed willingness to sign a measure that will hold off the contribution hike, and approve additional funds for PhilHealth.

Under the Universal Health Care Law, the state insurer’s  monthly rates will increase to 3.5% in January 2021 from 3% last year.

Velasco said the House of Representatives is ready to review the Universal Health Care Law and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, particularly the provisions on incremental premium rate hike for direct PhilHealth contributors.

“We urge the PhilHealth and the Department of Health to work closely with the legislature to ensure that our citizens and hardworking Filipinos will not further be exposed to this unnecessary burden while still grappling with the pandemic,” he said.

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