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Makabayan solons skip voting on Cayetano issue, saying COVID-19 takes priority

/ 02:42 AM October 01, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Rarely do Makabayan bloc members of the House to abstain from voting, and despite being in the minority, they usually even make an effort to explain their votes.

But on Wednesday they abstained from voting — “before the contending factions of the supermajority for speakership” — on whether to accept or reject the offer of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to resign.

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“It’s our obligation to give priority to the interest in and the need of the people for an effective and pro-people response to the pandemic to ensure their safe return to schools, workplaces, and livelihood,” Kabataan Rep. Elago explained.

[Original statement in Filipino: “Obligasyon nating bigyang prayoridad ang interes at pangangailangan ng tao para sa epektibo at pangmasang tugon sa pandemya para sa ligtas na balik eskwela, trabaho at kabuhayan.”]

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Rep. France Castro of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list had the same reason for abstaining.

“We abstained as a statement against the wrangling for posts and 2021 pork in the House leadership especially amid the pandemic,” Castro said. “Solving the health crisis and addressing the economic crisis being endured by the Filipino people should be top priority of the House, not power and politics.”

Cayetano made a lengthy speech during the House session, revealing details of the meeting that he had Tuesday night with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, his rival for the speakership, and other lawmakers before President Rodrigo Duterte.

The two House leaders sat down before Duterte to discuss the term-sharing agreement they made in 2019 during the election for the speakership.

Under the agreement, Cayetano would serve as speaker for the first 15 months and then Velasco would take over the post for the remaining 21 months.

In his speech, however, Cayetano appeared to prefer extending his term so he could supervise discussions on the proposed 2021 national budget — to which Duterte supposedly agreed.

In a vote on Wednesday, 184 lawmakers eventually rejected Cayetano’s resignation offer, leaving a cloud of uncertainty over the issue of who would be speaker come Oct. 14.

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Elago and Castro stressed that abstaining from voting the issue was their way of insisting on the independence of the legislative branch, as the choice of either Cayetano and Velasco seemed to be dependent on the blessing of the President.

“We, as members of the minority, have to protect our independence. The President’s blessing should not determine who will sit as leader of the lower chamber of Congress. It must not be a rubber stamp of the executive branch,” Castro said.

[The second sentence in the original Filipino: “Hindi rin dapat nanggagaling sa basbas ng presidente ang mga umuupong pinuno sa mababang kapulungan ng Kongreso.”]

“Now more than ever, we have to protect the independence of the minority and hold power to account. This is a matter that should be decided by the House Members, not Malacañang,” Elago added.

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TAGS: ACT party-list, Congress, COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 response, House, House of Representatives, House speakership, Kabataan party list, Makabayan bloc, Philippine news updates, Rep. France Castro, Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, Rep. Sarah Elago, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano
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