Lawmakers vote to declare House Speaker post vacant

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2020 08:41 AM | Updated as of Oct 12 2020 01:25 PM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - At least 186 lawmakers have voted to declare the position of House Speaker vacant on Monday. 

This, after allies of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco said Monday they would move to oust House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano by declaring the position vacant, a day before a special session would be convened for the passage of the 2021 budget.

At least 187 lawmakers have expressed their support for Velasco, according to a manifesto circulated to media.

"Therefore, in accordance with Section 13, Rule 3 of the Rules of the House of Representatives, of the 18th Congress, we call to assemble, move to and cast our vote to declare the position of Speaker VACANT on Monday, October 12, 2020," the manifesto read.
 
The group also said it manifests its "earnest and full commitment" to President Rodrigo Duterte's certification of the 2021 budget as urgent.

Cayetano earlier refused to honor a previous term-sharing deal with Velasco. On September 30, Cayetano resigned as speaker, but his decision was rejected by his colleagues. 

On Monday, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said at least 167 lawmakers have signed the manifesto for Velasco. 

"The thing is there are 167 congressmen who support Lord Allan Velasco as Speaker," he said. 

Salceda said the meeting was held a day before the special session in order not to disrupt the budget deliberations. 

"We respect the president’s call for special session by just focusing on the budget, that’s why it’s being held a day before. We are not using, employing the congress special session," he told ANC's Headstart.

"I expect the executive to recognize the proceedings," he added.

The manifesto said the suspension of sessions last week "deprived the Filipino People of exercising, through their duly-elected Representatives, their right to participate in crafting a national budget that would best serve the country."

"The House members were stripped of their legislative duty to scrutinize the spending plan of various important agencies. Instead, this constitutional duty was invalidly delegated through the creation of a 'small committee that will accept alterations to the budget,'" it said.

"As a result, this invalid delegation effectively railroads and replaces the important budget process which is comprised of sponsorship, debate and amendments."

The manifesto was supposedly signed by leaders of political parties and organized political blocs: Representatives Doy Leachon, Eric Martinez, Rimpy Bondoc and Salceda of PDP-Laban, Isidro Ungab of Hugpong ng Pagbabago, Jack Duavit, Mark Enverga and Wes Gatchalian of Nationalist People's Coalition, Mikee Romero of the Party List Coalition, Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza, Kristine Singson Meehan of the Northern Luzon Alliance, Kiko Benitez of the Visayas Bloc, Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, Munir Arbison of the Nacionalista Party and Raul del Mar of the Liberal Party.

Ungab and Rodriguez confirmed signing the manifesto.

The congressmen's headquarters is closed as it wasn't fumigated because there was no scheduled session Monday, said House Secretary General Jose Luis Montales.

"The Plenary is closed because there is no session today. Power is turned off because there is no session. Same with internet which is open to other offices that are open," he said.

House Sergeant at Arms Ramon Apolinario said the official mace of the chamber was in custody.

"That is not the official mace," he said of the mace at the Celebrity Sports Plaza.

LEADERSHIP CHANGE

Velasco's camp is "spreading black propaganda that they have over 200 votes," according to Cayetano's ally, Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.

He said the move "totally disrupts" the special session set for the passage of the 2021 budget from Tuesday to Thursday.

"Let's approve the budget first. If anyone wants to invoke leadership change or any other matter, that should be secondary to the budget,” Villafuerte said in a statement.

"We would like to reiterate, we are all in one in passing the budget in a constitutionally sound manner. Kung sino ang manggulo sa budget, sila ang sumusuway sa Presidente."

(Whoever disrupts the deliberations on the budget, they are the ones who are going against the President’s wishes.)

Under a "gentleman's agreement" Duterte brokered last year, Cayetano was supposed to lead the House for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress or until this month, while Velasco will assume leadership for the next 21 months. 

The agreement would be honored after the chamber's passage of the 2021 budget on Friday, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said Sunday.

"I assure my esteemed colleagues that the gentleman’s agreement will be honored after the approval of the national budget for 2021 on third and final reading on Friday, October 16," he said.

"Let us set aside politics and focus first on the passage of the national budget as requested by the President...We will respect the term-sharing agreement and ensure a smooth transition of leadership in the House of Representatives."

Duterte and the leadership of PDP-Laban had also urged lawmakers to honor the term-sharing deal after the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, on Friday met with Velasco, also a member of the dominant political party.

In a statement, Duterte-Carpio confirmed that Velasco sought her help, as chairperson of Hugpong ng Pagbabago, to get the votes of the three HNP Congressmen from Davao Region.

"I told him that HNP was created to propel unity and development in Davao Region and assist the administration of President Duterte," she said. 

"I also emphasized that HNP will respect the term-sharing agreement as ordered by the President last year and reiterated that the party fully supports Presidential Proclamation 1027. " 

--With reports from Trishia Billones and Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News