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'Majority will do the talking': Velasco allies gather at QC venue amid speakership row

'Majority will do the talking': Velasco allies gather at QC venue amid speakership row

MANILA, Philippines — Dozens of lawmakers gathered Monday morning at the Celebrity Sports Complex in Quezon City following a manifesto calling the House of Representatives to assemble, declare the post of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano vacant, and elect Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco at the helm of the chamber.

In an interview with INQUIRER.net, Valenzuela City 2nd District Rep. Eric Martinez, a lawmaker supportive of Velasco’s speakership bid, said

“Democracy dictates. It’s always of the numbers, the collective voice of congressman and congresswomen. With the gathering of all those who signed the manifesto physically and by Zoom later on, it is democracy at work,” Martinez said.

“Therefore, venue should be out of the question where the House of Representatives’ structure na bato, semento would be secondary at this time for the numbers dictate that it is time for change [in the leadership],” he added.

The said gathering was also confirmed by Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda who is already in the venue. He told INQUIRER.net that as of 8:45 a.m., there are 90 lawmakers at the Celebrity Sports Complex.

The gathering is taking place after a manifesto was obtained by the media which called for the lower chamber to reconvene, declare Cayetano’s post vacant, and elect Velasco as new speaker.

The manifesto is signed by 187 lawmakers.

But should the move prosper, will it be legal especially if it was not held at the Batasang Pambansa?

In an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel, Salceda said it “just a session not inside the usual place where we hold” as he recalled when the House held a session in Batangas following the eruption of Taal Volcano.

“It’s more important in the inter-departmental relations—meaning to say the three branches—the respect or the acceptance of the other branches of the government and of course the acceptance of the people. But at the corner of it is really that there are 167 congressmen [in the majority],” Salceda said.

Salceda further said that he expects the executive branch to respect the proceedings.

The gathering is happening a day before the special session for the deliberations of the proposed 2021 budget following the call of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We respect the President’s call for a special session by just focusing on the budget so that’s why we have a day before it. We’re not using, employing the call for special session. In fact, that will be the first order of business,” Salceda said.

“The thing is there are 167 congressmen supporting Lord Allan Velasco as speaker,” he added.

House Sergeant at Arms Ramon Apolinario, however, said the mace at the Celebrity Sports Plaza is not official.

The mace serves as the symbol of authority of the House and shall be displayed at the Speaker’s rostrum when the House is in session.

According to the manifesto, lawmakers cited Section 13 of the Rules of the House which states that “a vacancy is created whenever any of the officers dies, resigns, or is permanently incapacitated, or when the House declares any office vacant.”

Further the House rules states that the position of Speaker may only be declared vacant through nominal voting by a majority vote of all the members.

“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 lawmakers said in the manifesto.

“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,” they added.

The lawmakers pointed out the recent “unceremonious” termination of the deliberations and the eventual approval of House Bill No. 7727 or the General Appropriations Bill (GAB), which contains the proposed national budget for 2021, even if the proposed fundings of more than 20 government agencies and executive offices have yet to be scrutinized.