MANILA, Philippines–In the battle for the Marinduque post, Regina Reyes got a step ahead of her rival Lord Allan Velasco after the House of Representatives decided to recognize her as the province’s lawmaker.
Reyes was the one who attended the House session Monday. She was recognized in the roll call and participated in the election of the House Speaker, where she cast her vote for Feliciano Belmonte. She was also among the 267 lawmakers who took their oaths of office during the session.
She hobnobbed with other House members during a breakfast gathering at the Batasang Pambansa. She was also the one invited to the State of the Nation Address (SONA), and came to the Batasan early in her formal blue-green gown.
It is also Reyes’ picture, and not that of Velasco’s, which was included in the gallery of lawmakers mounted outside the plenary hall.
This was despite the Commission on Elections proclaiming Velasco as Marinduque representative last week, and nullifying Reyes’ earlier proclamation as the province’s lawmaker.
Reyes has a pending case before the Supreme Court questioning the Comelec’s decision to disqualify her for being a United States citizen. The high court had upheld the poll body, but Reyes has filed a motion for reconsideration on the ruling.
At the same time, she maintains that it is the House electoral tribunal that has jurisdiction over any challenge to her election since she was proclaimed first and had already taken her oath of office.
“Under the Constitution, that [Velasco’s proclamation] was illegal,” Reyes said in an interview Monday.
She added that the House was just following the Constitution when it decided to recognize her as the province’s representative, and stood pat on the view that the House electoral tribunal resolves disputes involving proclaimed lawmakers.
She also does not think the Comelec’s decision will affect her discharge of her duty.
“I’m working with the House. The House is where I was elected by the people of Marinduque. So I will work to the best of my ability to represent their interest,” she said.
Earlier, then incoming Speaker Belmonte said that Reyes’ proclamation and her oath-taking “entitle her at least to be considered a member and let the case be decided by the HRET.”
“The current thinking here is based on precedents as well as the constitutional provision, the HRET should have the exclusive jurisdiction of its members,” he had told reporters.
Velasco is the son of Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, and Reyes had accused the latter of meddling in the case to secure a ruling favorable to the family. The magistrate had inhibited himself from the case, but Reyes believes he had a hand in the unfavorable ruling that she alleged was issued in haste.
The younger Velasco, in an earlier statement, defended the Supreme Court ruling and said that under the rules, the court could dismiss without further proceedings the petitions similar to what Reyes filed, if these are insufficient in form and substance.
He had also said the Comelec resolution disqualifying her was already final and executory because she had been unable to get a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court.
He had further said that under the Comelec rules, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over decisions of the Comelec, and that the rules of the HRET state that it has jurisdictions only over petitions on the ground of ineligibility and disloyalty of the candidate to the Republic of the Philippines, as well as election protests on the revision of ballots in contested districts.