Velasco’s election may be invalid; he must be elected again in plenary – Lagman
MANILA, Philippines — Newly-elected Speaker Lord Allan Velasco should be elected again before the plenary of the House of Representatives as his election on Monday might not be valid, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman said in a statement issued on Monday.
Lagman said that, though he was in favor of the upholding of the term-sharing deal between Velasco and incumbent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, the election, held outside of the Batasan Pambansa, might not hold ground for going against House rules.
According to Lagman, House speakers are only elected when the House session is open — in this case, the session will only resume on Nov. 16 as Cayetano had moved to suspend it. However, the House is set to convene on Tuesday in a special session to pass the proposed 2021 national budget.
“A Speaker must be elected when the House is in session in open and public plenary proceedings,” Lagman said. “Although the precipitate suspension of the sessions starting in the afternoon of October 6, 2020 up to November 15, 2020 is questionable, the legitimacy of said suspension has not been challenged before the proper forum and there has been no official declaration of its nullity.”
“Absence such declaration voiding the questionable suspension, such suspension prevailed when the rump assembly was held. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte has acknowledged the absence of a congressional session so much so that he called the Congress to a special session from October 13 to 17, 2020,” he added.
Velasco was earlier elected a session at the Celebrity Sports Complex in Quezon City. While he got the votes of 186 lawmakers, Cayetano alleged that the proceedings were illegal.
A similar scenario of a speaker being elected again a day after the initial election occurred in 2018, then-Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was ousted from his post and was replaced by then Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo hours before President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address.
Cayetano and Velasco have been vying for the speakership slot as far as 2019, but President Rodrigo Duterte brokered a term-sharing deal between his allies, including now-Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez.
Under the agreement, Cayetano would be the speaker for the first 15 months of the 18th Congress nad Velasco would serve the remaining 21 months — an agreement dubbed as 15-21.
Velasco believes that Cayetano should step down by Oct. 14, in accordance with the deal. But Cayetano insisted on staying for some time so that the proposed budget would not be affected.
Weeks ago, it was not clear how things would go since Cayetano suspended the session until Nov. 16 — way past his supposed resignation date.
But aside from these factors, Lagman believes that sessions cannot be held outside the Batasan complex without the consent of the Senate.
“Accordingly, Sec. 16(5) of Art. VI of the Constitution provides: ‘Neither House during the sessions of the Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting’,” Lagman noted.
“Granting that the suspension of the session on October 6, 2020 is invalid, and the sessions continue, the so-called session called at the Celebrity Sports Plaza had no consent of the Senate, and consequently it was not legal and constitutional,” he added.
Various rumors have swirled around the power struggle at the House. For one, Velasco claimed that President Duterte told Velasco that Cayetano had fooled them into thinking that he would adhere to the term-sharing agreement.
But Duterte released several statements, including one made by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Sunday, insisting that he would not meddle in the politics and affairs of the legislative.