The Long View: Oktoberfest at the Batasan


Oktoberfest at the Batasan

 / 04:05 AM October 14, 2020

The story of the two Speakers, now ex-Speaker Cayetano and newly installed Speaker Velasco, has Oct. 5, the public release of the SWS survey results, as the dividing line between Cayetano Triumphant and Velasco Ascendant.

The cliques of the ruling coalition had gone to the Palace on Sept. 29. By all accounts, the President signaled that the agreement should be upheld. Using a tried-and-tested parliamentary maneuver, what Cayetano did was call for a vote of confidence by offering to resign, which he won on Sept. 30.

Oct. 1: Cayetano and friends proceeded to crow (and, in retrospect, rub salt in the wounds) that Velasco had relied too much on the President and ignored the necessity of securing his colleagues’ support.

Oct. 2: The taunting was such that, quite clearly, part of the mockery was based on pointing out the President was a lame duck. Then…

Oct. 5: The survey revealed a stratospheric rating for the President. The conventional wisdom that the President was pandemic damaged goods, that he was weakened, that the House could repeat what Speaker Arroyo did, was suddenly toppled.

Oct. 6: The President was said to have given a thumbs-up to Velasco to claim what’s rightfully his. It’s at this point that things start developing relatively quickly. Cayetano, either on schedule or sniffing a second round in the air, mounted a purge. The Palace, it’s noteworthy to mention, was still tentative at this point. Cayetano, leaving nothing to chance, gaveled the House session closed without waiting for the budget to be voted on third reading.

Oct. 8: In marked contrast to how he seemed passive in the face of Cayetano’s parliamentary maneuver, the President made a not very veiled threat against the House leadership three days after the survey. The optics said it all: The President, with uniformed service commanders behind him, said the House better fix things—or else.

What followed was the legal cover to provoke a showdown: The President called for a special session, and Cayetano reportedly went to the Palace to apologize for the budget furor.

Oct. 9: Velasco said the President told him they’d both been duped. By this time, the Nationalist People’s Coalition had also publicly sided with Velasco.

Oct. 11: Within two days, instead of the less-than-impressive Pulong, it’s younger sister Sara who was bruited about weighing in.

Oct. 12: The morning began with a publicized statement of support for Velasco from Mayor Sara. This was followed by the Celebrity Sports Plaza putsch, complete with replica House mace. Those looking for signs and portents of where the Palace was (fence-sitting or actively involved?) saw them via the RTVM coverage of the putsch proceedings. But Cayetano, an old House hand who knows that in a legislature the rules are what matter, set about framing the Velasco coronation as a rump session.

That Cayetano had a point was underscored by the President abruptly postponing his expected Monday night harangue. It would have been the time to proclaim victory—if it were secure.

Oct. 13: D-Day, as the special session was called to begin this day. Cayetano was still defiant ahead of the 3 p.m. session. Meanwhile, Velasco granted absolution to his colleagues whom Cayetano framed for double-dealing (or double voting): Allegedly, they didn’t vote, their votes for Cayetano were faked. Momentum was made visible by means of a breakfast.

8:16 Celebrity Sports Plaza gathering

9:52 Palace announces both Velasco and Cayetano summoned to Palace at 12:30

10:21 Lakas defects to Velasco

10:24 LRay Villafuerte still defiant

10:26 Velasco absolves all congressmen by saying their signatures supporting his rival were “forged”

10:39 The March to the Batasan begins

10:42 Romualdez reported on the way to Batasan

10:45 Yap calls for issue to be settled (peace feelers!)

10:46 Yap, Villafuerte told: Cayetano allies can keep posts (feelers accepted!)

10:59 Plenary unlocked

11:06 Lord Velasco arrives

11:28 Lord Velasco mounts the House rostrum with his new, replica mace being used as the actual mace

11:34 Boying Remulla arrives

11:54 Alan Peter Cayetano concedes

12:03 Party list bloc, previously ousted, gives Cayetano kiss of death by pledging support for Velasco

2:17 Liberal Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition, party list coalition, and the Mindanao bloc express their support for Speaker Lord Allan Velasco

The end. Oktoberfest in the Batasan begins.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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