“House war” in the time of COVID: Congress opens budget special session with “2 House Speakers”

“A tale of two Speakers”: Combination photos of House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco both laying claim to the speakership post of the House of Representatives. (Eagle News Service)


(Eagle News) – The House of Representatives will open the special session called by President Rodrigo Duterte for the passage of the all-important proposed 2021 national budget on Tuesday, Oct. 13, with two lawmakers claiming to be the House Speaker.

Both Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his rival Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco who took his oath as Speaker after a House session staged by his allies at the Celebrity Sports Plaza, claimed to be the legitimate speaker of the House of Representatives.

Cayetano said he wants to finish passing the 2021 national budget amounting to P4.506 trillion before anything else, and called what Velasco and his allies did as invalid, against the rules of the House and against the Constitution.

“Let’s follow the President: budget muna,” he said in a Facebook Live briefing on Tuesday, Oct. 12 as the Velasco faction was declaring the Marinduque congressman as the new speaker.

It’s really a travesty, yung nangyayari ngayon,” Cayetano said.

He also noted how the “session” at the Celebrity Sports Plaza on Monday violated so many protocols set by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious DIseasese on COVID-19.

Sila nga ang rule makers, sila rin ang rule breaker. Kung valid yun, banana republic na tayo,” he said.

Velasco and his allies gathered at the Celebrity Sports Plaza at noon to declare the House Speakership post vacant with a vote, including those through Zoom, of what they claimed were 186 congressmen. After that, Velasco was “elected” by lawmakers, purportedly also 186, to be the new speaker and thereafter took his oath before the bgy. chair of Matandang Balara, Allan Franza.

Cayetano criticized this “fake session’, saying that this will not stand with the Supreme Court as it failed to follow House rules and the Constitution, since House sessions, he said, should be held inside the halls of Congress.

“Do it in a constitutional legal manner that inspires people,” he said.

-“Very, very dangerous precedent”-

“It creates a very,very disturbing precedent. Kung ang theory nila basta they have a quorum, anywhere they can meet. That means at any point at any day, I can bring 152 congressmen and I can do whatever I want in whatever part of the country. Napaka-delikado po noon,” he explained.

Ako simple lang ang pakiusap ko: Don’t throw the Constitution away. Don’t throw the Constitution into the waste basket.”

He said that he is ready to step down as Speaker after the 2021 proposed national budget is passed.

Cayetano said that this can be done in a matter of two or three days, definitely within the Oct. 13 to 16 time period for the Special Session called by President Duterte through Proclamation No. 1027.

He also hit Velasco for being so eager to be the House Speaker even if this would mean putting the budget deliberations at a disadvantage.

-Cayetano: Budget to be passed if majority will cooperate-

Cayetano said that it was clear in the President’s instructions that he wants the budget passed first, since this contained the critical funds for the government’s pandemic response next year, before Velasco can take over.

He said he still needs the “majority to cooperate” for the budget to be passed.

Kung hindi maipasa ang budget, pero tinulungan niyo ako na maipasa ang budget, ako ang sisihin nyo,” he said.

“Pero kung magra-rump session kayo, mag ba-brat pack incorporated kayo, magwala kayo sa ginagawa nyo ngayon, and then magwawala kayo dito bukas, still sa akin ang sisi mapupunta.”

“But at least give me a fighting chance to pass this budget. After ma-pass yung budget, gusto nyang mapalitan ang speaker 10 beses, 20 beses, do it, why not?” Cayetano explained.

Velasco and his allies, on the other hand, insisted they cannot work on passing the budget if Cayetano is still the speaker.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon said that the change in leadership in Congress is needed if the Lower House will pass the budget.

Velasco, in his speech after taking his “oath” as Speaker, claimed that he would not let the people down, and that he is extending his hand to Cayetano “for a peaceful transition” for the benefit of the people.

He said that he is rising up to the challenge to be the House Speaker even at this time of the pandemic.

“The true measure of leadership comes not when things come easy, but when things are difficult,” he said in his speech after taking his “oath” at the sports plaza.

He and his allies said that they would be working on the budget for next year as what the President wanted before the Special Session set at 3 p.m. today, Oct. 13.

Cayetano, on the other hand, said that he can promise that that there will be an orderly process for this Special Session today, Oct, 13, if lawmakers would put aside their interests and focus on passing the budget first.

-Speakership or budget-

He said he wanted to leave a better House of Representatives as his legacy and scoffed at his colleagues for creating a “circus” and a “noontime show” in Congress at a very critical stage of the pandemic.

Ang problema ko may flying voters,” he said when asked to comment on the numbers that Velasco has at 186 and the 205 lawmakers who signed in the manifesto expressing support for him.

“The rule is the voting has to be in the session hall, debate in the session hall,” Cayetano said.

“They want to elect someone who’s an absentee,” he said referring to Velasco who he said has not attended House hearings on the budget, Bayanihan 1 and 1, and even the ABS-CBN franchise issue.

He said Velasco’s allies were also mostly absent during the critical hearings of the House.

“Ano ba importante sa kanila speakership or budget?” he added.

President Duterte had earlier expressed exasperation and disappointment with the House Speakership squabble saying that if the lawmakers would not be able to resolve this, he would be the one to make his move.

On Monday, Oct. 12, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque again aired the appeal of the President for the lawmakers to set aside politics for now, and pass the critical 2021 proposed budget first.

(Editor’s note:  At around 12 noon of Oct. 13, Tuesday, Rep. Velasco assumed his post as House Speaker after a nominal voting “ratifying” his election earlier in a “session” outside Congress as Speaker of the House of Representatives, as Cayetano says he is submitting his irrevocable resignation as House Speaker)

(Eagle News Service)