Declare Speaker seat vacant if you want to change leadership: Defensor

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 01 2020 12:46 PM

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MANILA - Those who wish to change the leadership in the House of Representatives should declare the seat of the Speaker vacant and see who gets the vote, a lawmaker allied with Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Thursday.

Anakalusugan Party-list Rep Mike Defensor said he would not advise Cayetano to resign "because we have already voted." Cayetano offered to resign Wednesday, but Defensor moved to reject this and was seconded by the plenary.

"I would advise those who want a change of leadership to declare the seat vacant," he told ANC's Headstart.

"I don’t think there will be a fight amongst us. It will be a question of vote and if in the end they do not get the numbers, then we should just continue our work and respect each other," he said.

Cayetano spoke before his colleagues on Wednesday after meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, who was supposed to succeed him as House Speaker under a term-sharing deal. 

Cayetano was supposed to lead the chamber for 15 months before turning over the seat to Velasco this month. Sources from the Velasco camp said the agreement was supposed to be enforced on October 14.

The 184 votes to reject Cayetano's offer to resign "is a manifestation of continued support of an overwhelming majority of the House," said Defensor.

"'Yung speakership, hindi naman ito entitlement. Hindi ito hari at may prinsipe at after bumaba ang hari, 'yung prinsipe na ang uupo," he said.

(The speakership is not entitlement. It's not as if there's a king and a prince, and when the king abdicates, the prince assumes the throne.)

He added, the Speaker is not appointed by the President, but is elected in a "collective decision" by the House lawmakers.

"So the person who would want to lead the House, the person who would like to be the primus inter pares, should also assert himself and lead Congress. In this case, a simple motion to declare the office vacant would pave the way if indeed they have the votes to transfer the leadership of the House," he said.

DEFIANCE OF DUTERTE ORDER?

Defensor said as a matter of principle, "Congress is really independent of the executive," but he acknowledged that Cayetano, Velasco, and Martin Romualdez--an erstwhile candidate for the speakership and now Majority Floor Leader--sought Duterte's "open support" on who should lead the chamber.

"Ang unang tanong ko is do we talk about the country based on a gentleman’s agreement...Hindi ba dapat pag-usapan ngayong pinag-uusapan ang budget, what are the things that have to be implemented, amended in the budget?" he said.

He added, whoever will replace Cayetano should be able to lead the House "through this turmoil." 

"If we agree that Speaker Alan is the best in this situation, then let’s vote on that. If we say Lord Velasco is capable of doing that and I’m sure his supporters are saying that, then let’s debate on it," he said.

Asked if he thinks Velasco is not competent enough for the position, Defensor said he has not worked with Velasco and has only seen him once where they exchanged greetings.

"There should have been a working relationship, Cong. Lord should have been working with us, talking with us. Those who are part of the active committees," he said.