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Rough Cuts | Who’s directing this House play?

The persistent report circulating in the Lower House that there is a plan to out Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is now taking its toll on the leadership of certain House Committees. And sad to say one of the victims of the intrigues is our very own Davao City’s third district congressman Isidro “Sid” Ungab, chair of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations.

According to a news report emanating from Manila broadcast late Monday night, Ungab was suddenly taken out as head of the powerful House body with Congressman Doy Leachon from Masbate, also a chair of another House body. It was not clearly stated in the report what their roles are in the alleged House coup. However, the ouster of Ungab and Leachon from the chairmanship of their respective committees was attributed to the coup plan.

It was also learned from the same report that Cayetano whose term as Speaker will end by October this year under a term-sharing agreement with Catanduanes Congressman Lord Velasco reportedly brokered by no less than President Rodrigo Dutere, is planning not to step down to give way to the Catanduanes solon. This claim came from the camp of Velasco whose reaction on the Ungab and Leachon’s ouster was sought by the media.

The statement from the Velasco camp further said that the congressman is not making any move to fast track his assumption by kicking Cayetano out and that the talks of the ouster plan could possibly be hatched by Cayetano’s own camp.

We are inclined to agree with the hunch of the Velasco camp. Yes, Cayetano could be adopting the strategy of a basketball team coach. That is, to put up a strong offensive play in an attempt to rattle the opponents in an evenly and hotly contested game.

In other words, we are convinced of the idea of the Velasco camp that Cayetano is not ready to make good his share in the bargain. That is, to hand over to Velasco the House leadership by October of this year. And to ensure that this can be done the Speaker is putting up this early his defensive moves against the possible negative backlash by enhancing his advanced offensive strategy.

The speaker is simply crippling the capabilities of congressmen who he thinks could be the “go-to” guys of Velasco for support once he (the Speaker) carries out his plan of not honoring the term-sharing agreement.

Apparently, Cayetano must have seen in Ungab the position of swaying his fellow House members to support Velasco should the Davao Congressman be ignored by the current Speaker during the remainder of his term under the agreement. It is also not far-fetched that some other congressmen who did not get the maximum funds from Ungab’s committee for their desired projects are getting back at the Davao lawmaker by sowing intrigues against him.

Considering that Ungab’s committee holds the power of funding congressional projects for the congressmen’s district it is only natural that Ungab has a strong pull on his fellow lawmakers. And with such influence being given a spin by those who failed to get their desired maximum favor from the Appropriations Committee chair, it is not really difficult to make the speaker gullible to the intrigues. So, with Ungab out of the incumbent Speaker’s way Cayetano could forge another alliances with other House members who he can trust and is not an immediate threat to his position in the House.

But of course Cayetano himself is one shrewd politician that would not just make any move without considering the potential repercussions of his actions. Cayetano is known beneficiary of President Duterte’s support. As such he could be extra careful in touching Ungab without thinking of the possibility of offending the President who is from Davao like the ousted Appropriations Committee chair. Therefore, the Speaker must have informed the President of his plan.

Or, is Ungab’s ouster part of a well-scripted political drama hatched by two rival factions led by politicians known closed to the President but backing their own political lackeys in Congress?

Let us not forget those who strongly back Velasco on one hand and Cayetano on the other. Only the President’s intervention using the term-sharing strategy made them come together without surrendering their personal pride.

They may be the same people directing the political play in the House. Let’s keep our hands crossed while we wait for the outcome of the House imbroglio.

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