Velasco lords over House, Cayetano out as Speaker ahead of special session on 2021 budget

Gillan Ropero and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2020 11:56 AM | Updated as of Oct 13 2020 03:43 PM

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco takes his oath after being installed as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives during a special meeting with allied lawmakers at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City on Monday. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE)— Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday took the reins of the House of Representatives, replacing Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano as Speaker following his election at the Batasang Pambansa that enforced a term-sharing agreement the latter had sought to delay citing the 2021 national budget. 

Some 186 lawmakers voted to ratify Velasco's election as Speaker following Monday's election at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City, which Cayetano and his allies had rejected.

Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano then tendered his "irrevocable" resignation through an announcement on Facebook live, just as he was ousted.

A total of 208 House members expressed support for Velasco following his election, according to 1-Pacman Partylist Rep. Mikee Romero.

"This is for our people, for this august body our Congress, for the word of honor of our beloved President Rodrigo Duterte and for God who makes all this happen. To the Filipino people, we will not let you down. For God and country, maraming salamat po! Mabuhay po ang Kongreso! Mabuhay po ang Sambayanang Pilipino," Velasco said in a speech after he was installed as the new House Speaker.

(Thank you very much, long live Congress and the Filipino people.)

Among those that supported Velasco's election as Speaker was opposition Liberal Party (LP). Negros Oriental 1st District Rep. Jocelyn Sy-Limkaichong said the decision was made after "careful deliberation" among members and guidance from party chairperson Vice President Leni Robredo.

"The need for stable leadership during this time of pandemic is the overriding reason for this decision. The absence of stability in leadership will only result in the delays of passage of legislation to save lives and livelihood, including the General Appropriations Act of 2021, an outcome a Filipino can’t afford," the party's statement said, as read by Limkaichong.

Aside from the LP and Duterte and Velasco's party PDP-Laban, others who threw their support behind the new Speaker were Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit for the Nationalist People's Coalition, Manila Rep. Manuel Lopez for Metro Manila, Negros Occidental Rep. Kiko Benitez for Visayas, Maguindanao Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu for Bangsamoro, and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab for Hugpong ng Pagbabago.

Velasco's assumption of the House helm ended a bitter tussle over the chamber's leadership, which at one point prompted the President to deliver a public address and plead for lawmakers to prioritize the budget over the power toss-up. 

The new Speaker, a 42-year-old old lawyer and son of retired Supreme Court justice and now Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr., assumed the position Tuesday as the chamber resumed budget deliberations after President Rodrigo Duterte certified it as urgent.

Duterte's proclamation came as worries over the possible delayed approval of the 2021 budget surfaced after Cayetano abruptly suspended session last week following the measure's passage on second reading.

Cayetano terminated crucial deliberations on the spending bill days before he was supposed to hand over House leadership to Velasco under a "gentleman's agreement."

Velasco said there was "no denying that all these unnecessary turmoil" resulted from Cayetano's "abject refusal to honor that agreement."

"Let us show our countrymen that loyalty and fidelity to the promises we make are not mere conveniences for us. Let us be good examples of palabra de honor and demonstrate that our word is our bond," he said.

Prior to the election, the biggest gathering of congressmen yet since the pandemic, Duterte summoned the Speakership rivals to Malacañang at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Alfredo Garbin said there would be a peaceful transition of House leadership after Sergeant-at-Arms Ramon Apolinario turned over the floor to his successor Mao Aplasco at the rostrum.

Aplasco was elected during Monday's session outside the Batasang Pambansa, with Jocelia Bighani Sibin replacing Jose Luis Montales as House Secretary-General.

— With reports from Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News