MANILA, Philippines—In the fight for the seat of Marinduque in Congress, Regina Ongsiako-Reyes outpunched her rival Lord Allan Velasco on Monday after the House decided to recognize her as the representative of the province.
But Velasco’s camp vowed to “take all possible remedies” to reverse the House’s recognition of Reyes and put Velasco in Marinduque’s congressional seat.
Velasco’s lawyer, Danny Gapasin, said the candidate decided not to attend the opening of the House after being advised of the pending case involving Marinduque’s representation in Congress.
Velasco issued a statement later saying he chose not to attend the House opening to “avoid any untoward incident” during the proceedings.
“My absence in the opening session does not mean that I am giving up on my battle for the truth and what’s right, but instead my absence shows my respect for the House and my colleagues and for the sanctity of the proceedings in the election for its Speaker and other officers,” Velasco said.
He also sent a letter to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte requesting that the roll be corrected by deleting Reyes’ name and replacing it with his name and that he be recognized as the duly elected representative of Marinduque.
But it was Reyes’ name that was called. She was among the 267 lawmakers who took their oaths of office during the session. And she participated in the election for the Speaker, voting for Belmonte.
Reyes hobnobbed with other House members during a breakfast gathering at the House. She was also the one invited to the joint session with the Senate for President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address.
It was also Reyes’ picture, and not that of Velasco’s, that was hung in the gallery of lawmakers outside the session hall.
With all that, the House appeared to have ignored the proclamation by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of Velasco last week as the representative of Marinduque, nullifying Reyes’ earlier proclamation as the winner of the congressional election in the province on May 13.
Reyes went to the Supreme Court questioning the Comelec’s decision to disqualify her on grounds that she is a US citizen. The court upheld the Comelec’s decision, but Reyes filed a motion for reconsideration.
In a statement posted on his Facebook account, Gapasin said the House ignored the rule of law by recognizing Reyes instead of Velasco.
If the House leadership is not convinced about the Supreme Court ruling, Gapasin said, “they should seek legal remedies, but defiance is not among them.”
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes was not available for comment on Monday, but in an earlier interview he said that it was “beyond the powers” of the election commission to enforce Velasco’s proclamation.
“We have nothing to do with the House of Representatives. We cannot force them to accept or not to accept [the decision]. We proclaimed Velasco based on our decision and whether he will be accepted or not is beyond our powers,” Brillantes said.
He said the matter was for the House to settle.
“It’s up to them,” he said.—With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy in Manila and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon