Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) – January 14, 2021 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has formed an independent bloc in the House of Representatives, posing a challenge to the legislative agenda of his successor, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

The Taguig-Pateros congressman is joined by six other former House leaders who were removed from their posts after Velasco took over the speakership last October – Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez, Batangas Rep. Ranie Abu, Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, Bulacan Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro.

The group, which will be launched today, decided to call themselves “BTS sa Kongreso” (BTS in Congress), in reference to the popular South Korean boy band that also has seven members.

Villafuerte clarified that their group would still support President Duterte’s legislative agenda, but they can be expected to be critical of certain measures being pushed under Velasco.

“If we see something that’s wrong, we’ll also speak out because at the end of the day, we want what’s good for the country. We’re still definitely part of the administration and the Duterte majority,” Cayetano said.

“Maybe you can call us independent majority. We would just be more critical of certain issues and legislation,” Villafuerte added.

Cayetano and Defensor have already opposed the proposed amendments in the 1987 Constitution pushed by President Duterte, both saying this is not the right time to push for Charter change as the country contends with the coronavirus pandemic.

Cayetano was replaced by Velasco as speaker after a bitter squabble over the execution of their term-sharing agreement forged at the beginning of the 18th Congress in July 2019. Duterte mediated and supported the takeover of Velasco.

Cayetano, secretary general of the Nacionalista Party, is reportedly running for a higher position in the 2022 polls. But he has not confirmed such a plan, saying instead that officials should focus on pandemic response and recovery programs.

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