MANILA - The election of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as House Speaker in a sports club was deemed "unconstitutional" by a law expert on Monday, hours after Taguig Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano was "ousted" from the House leadership.
Former UP Law Dean and constitutionalist Pacifico Agabin said that the installation of Velasco at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City with a version of the House mace, the symbol of the authority of the chamber which should be present during sessions, violated a provision of the Constitution.
He explained that under Paragraph 5, Section 16 of Article 6, "neither House during the sessions of the Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting."
Agabin said lawmakers had no resolution that can legitimize the gathering at the sports club as a House session which is needed since it can express the collective sentiment of the lower chamber on a particular issue, person or event.
"Kung may resolution sila, siguro pwede ma-justify doon. E wala po ata silang resolution eh," Agabin told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(If they have a resolution, they can justify the gathering there. But they apparently don't have a resolution.)
"Balewala po [yung gathering] kasi labag sa Saligang Batas eh. Pwedeng ma-challenge 'yun sa husgado."
(The gathering is useless since it's against the Constitution. That can be challenged before the court.)
He said that if Velasco and his allies want to properly install him as the next Speaker, they should find the time when regular House sessions continue at the plenary in Batasan Pambansa. But until then, Cayetano is still the Speaker.
However, the Taguig lawmaker earlier suspended regular sessions ahead of schedule, which led some lawmakers' to lament that the crucial 2021 spending plan has been "sacrificed" over a feud with his rival for the chamber's leadership.
Despite this, Velasco has already taken his "oath" as Speaker, which Cayetano and his allies rejected and mocked, calling it "katawa-tawa" (ridiculous) and "fake." They branded Velasco camp's move as "illegal," citing the location of the session and the absence of an "official" House mace.
The Marinduque lawmaker later disputed this and said there was precedence for House sessions being held outside of Batasan Pambansa.
"Noong nagkaroon tayo ng pagsabog ng Taal Volcano (When the Taal Volcano exploded), the whole House went to... Batangas to hold a House session. [I]t’s the same. Under the rules, it is allowed. This wasn’t a sham session," Velasco said.
The move to oust Cayetano came after President Rodrigo Duterte's PDP-Laban and its regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, called on lawmakers to honor the term-sharing agreement between the two rivals.