A total of 186 congressmen stripped Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano of his post and voted to install Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as the new speaker Monday ahead of the special session called by President to expedite passage of the proposed national budget for 2021.
Velasco, chairman of the House Committee on Energy, was elected speaker at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City after his supporters said the plenary hall has been padlocked.
At least 101 of those who voted for Velasco were present in the session while 85 attended on Zoom.
“The number represents the same number of congressmen who signed a manifesto supporting Velasco for speaker,” disclosed 1Pacman party-list Rep. Mikee Romero, who was unceremoniously relieved as deputy speaker by Cayetano last week.
Velasco, 42, is believed to be the youngest congressman to hold the position of speaker.
He readily accepted his election which was conducted on nominal voting. Deputy Speaker and Abono party-list Rep. Conrad Estrella III declared Velasco the new speaker after announcing the votes he garnered which was 186.
Nominations were made by leaders of political parties and regional blocs comprising the majority coalition in the House.
Leading the pack of nominators was Romero, who is expected to regain his seat as deputy speaker. Romero, president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation, Inc. which is the second largest political group in the House, was sacked by Cayetano a day after the lawmaker accompanied Velasco to the Malacañang meeting with President Duterte two weeks ago.
Also nominating Velasco were Reps. Doy Leachon for PDP-Laban; Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu for Mindanao bloc; Jack Duavit for the Nationalist People’s Coalition; and Francisco “Kiko” Benitez of the Visayas bloc, among others. Velasco took his oath of office before Punong Barangay Allan Francia of Barangay Matandang Balara which has jurisdiction over the venue. Before declaring Cayetano’s seat vacant, the lawmakers sought the opinion of Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, former dean of the San Sebastian College of Law, to determine the legality and constitutionality of the proceedings.
The mace which represents the authority to conduct legislative session was discussed by Rodriguez who stressed that its presence or absence does not nullify the proceedings because a majority of House members were present. However, a mace could be seen when the session started at around 10:45 a.m. Rodriguez also declared as constitutional and legal the holding of legislative proceedings outside the plenary hall, pointing out that there is no provision in the rules that this is a violation.
The senior administration lawmaker noted that Cayetano had set a precedent when he presided over a session in Batangas City at the height of the Taal Volcano eruption.
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza moved to declare the seat of the speaker vacant.
His motion was supported by all 186 members present during the session.
Meanwhile, President Duterte appealed to lawmakers to focus on the passage of the 2021 national budget instead of the leadership conflict during the special session, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
Roque said the President, exasperated with the chaotic politicking in the House, “just wants the budget to be passed,” citing the importance of a new spending plan for the country’s response and recovery efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In principle, the President does not want to get involved in politics. ‘Natagam na ako,’ Natagam is the Visayas word for ‘Nadala na ko.’ Yan po ang verbatim na sinabi ni Presidente noong nanawagan sa kongresista na isantabi ang pulitika (That’s the President’s statement in verbatim when he appealed to congressmen to set aside politicking),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Monday.
“Ayaw kong makialam sa politika sa Kamara. Natagam na ako. Ang importante maipasa ang proposed 2021 budget (I don’t want to meddle in the politics of the House. I am fed up. The passage of the 2021 budget is important),” Roque said, quoting Duterte. (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)