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187 solons call to assemble and elect Velasco as Speaker on Monday


Allies of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco are set to gather on Monday and elect him as Speaker of the House of Representatives despite the suspension of the session.

In a manifesto sent to reporters, a total of 187 lawmakers will come together to declare the seat of the House Speaker vacant and elect Velasco as the new leader of the House.

One hundred eighty-seven lawmakers exceed the majority of 299 House members, which means the number is enough to elect a new Speaker.

 

"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.

"Further, also in accordance with the same Section, we will move to and cast our vote to declare Representative Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress," it added.

Oriental Mindoro Representative Salvador Leachon sent the manifesto to reporters early Monday morning. It was confirmed by Cagayan De Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, Valenzuela City Representative Eric Martinez and Albay Representative Joey Salceda to GMA News Online.

If it pushes through, the election will take place even as the House is not in session. The chamber earlier suspended the session until November 16, in what some say is a move for Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to preempt the expected speakership turnover on October 14 in accordance with a term-sharing deal he hatched with Velasco last year.

The special session of Congress, as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte, will not start until October 13.

Apart from calling to assemble and elect Velasco as Speaker, the lawmakers also slammed the move of the House led by Cayetano to "unceremoniously" terminate the plenary budget deliberations and approve the 2021 general appropriations bill on second reading.

"In unceremoniously terminating deliberations on the budget... the current House Leadership 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," they said in the manifesto.

The "invalid" delegation to the small committee to accept amendments to the budget bill "effectively railroads and replaces the important budget process which is comprised of sponsorship, debate and amendments," they added.

"This act runs contrary to Congress’ responsibility to craft an open, transparent and meaningful budget that is beneficial to the Filipino people. The power of Congress is bastardized when it was divested from the plenary, in each and every individual legislator, and purposely let to be monopolized by a select few."

Apart from Leachon, Martinez, Rodriguez and Salceda, 12 other lawmakers from different blocs and political parties of the House signed the manifesto.

Martinez told GMA News Online that supporters of Velasco will gather at an events place in Quezon City this morning. He has yet to confirm if the election will take place in the said venue or at the Batasan Complex.

No session, no power

Meanwhile, House Secretary General Jose Luis Montales maintained that there will be no session at the chamber on Monday despite the call of 187 lawmakers to move to declare the House Speaker seat vacant and elect Velasco.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Montales responded to claims that the power and Internet connectivity at the House Plenary Hall have been cut off supposedly in anticipation of the "session" to elect Velasco as Speaker.

"Power in the Plenary Hall is turned off because there’s no session today. Same with Internet, which is given to other offices that are open," he said.

"Session is suspended and will resume tomorrow at 3 p.m.," he added, in accordance with President Rodrigo Duterte's call for a special session of Congress to resume the plenary deliberations on the 2021 budget.

Likewise, Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales II called the gathering of Velasco supporters an "illegal session" as they have no authority from the plenary to hold the event.

"Unlike in the Batangas session, there is no plenary Resolution authorizing to hold session in any other place other than in the Plenary in Batasan, contrary to the Constitution," Gonzales said.

Gonzales was referring to the House session in Batangas in January this year to discuss measures for and hear from the victims of the eruption of the Taal Volcano.

But  AAMBIS-OWA party-list Representative Sharon Garin claimed that the gathering was primarily to show the "big number" of lawmakers pushing for the term-sharing agreement on the speakership.

"So far there is no plan. We just wanted to meet and talk. Right now we are having breakfast. Actually just talking because we haven't seen each other in a long time. It just shows a big number of people or congressmen that are joining the same cause," she said.

On Sunday, allies of Cayetano called on the Velasco camp to focus on the budget first and set aside politics.

"We hope and appeal to the members na huwag na nilang guluhin ang procedure. Isantabi muna nila ang gusto nilang panggugulo. Gawin na lang yan after the budget," Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said in a virtual press conference on Sunday.

Majority Leader Ferdinand Romualdez also said that the speakership issue will be tackled after the House approves the budget. 

On Friday night, Velasco met with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the President's daughter, in Davao City. Leachon said Mayor Duterte has "endorsed" Velasco as the next leader of the House of Representatives.  —KBK/KG/RSJ, GMA News

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