Only plenary voting would settle speakership row, lawmakers claim

Only plenary voting would settle speakership row, lawmakers claim

Another round of voting, this time in the plenary, would settle the dispute between the two Speakers refusing to back down from their posts, lawmakers said, as the rival camps claim to have numbers that don’t add up.

After 186 lawmakers were announced to have voted on Monday for Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to head the House, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies insisted that the gathering outside the Batasang Pambansa Complex was “fake” and “illegal.” Neither of the two would budge despite the 15-21 term-sharing deal previously brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

For Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, the “rump assembly” held at the Celebrity Sports Plaza may have indicated a show of force from the Velasco camp, but only a formal election in the House plenary would validate his election.

“For all intents and purposes, the assembly at the Celebrity Sports Plaza can be considered a show of force or numerical superiority of the Velasco camp,” he said in a statement. “Consequently, the ‘election’ of Velasco has to be legitimized by holding a nominal voting for the new Speaker during any day of the special session.”

Lagman added that the gathering in Quezon City had no consent of the Senate ahead of the special session, consequently making it illegal and unconstitutional.

Also on Monday, Cayetano released a manifesto supporting the extension of his term and bearing the signature of 200 of his peers. He challenged Velasco to publicize his own manifesto with 187 signatures to check conflicting figures.

With only 299 members in the House, Cayetano and Velasco’s claim of their number of supporters could either mean some lawmakers deliberately expressed support for both camps or were mistakenly added without their consent. The winning Speaker only needs 151 votes, or the 50-percent-plus-one vote of the total House body.

In the pro-Velasco gathering, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez insisted that they were holding a valid session, despite claims that they were not using an official mace as “symbol of authority of the House.” They can also resume session if there is a quorum, he added.

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, a Cayetano ally, urged lawmakers not to rely on the allegations of both camps alone.

“Talagang malalaman lang natin kung sino ang iiboboto ng bawat kongresista, kung magkakaroon tayo ng botohan sa plenaryo,” he told CNN Philippines’ News.PH.

[Translation: We can only know the sentiments of each congressman if all of us will participate in the plenary voting.]

Barzaga is among the 200 signatories of the manifesto supporting Cayetano’s extended term.

For political analyst Dindo Manhit, the two rivals must follow the nature of congressional leadership by fighting it out in the plenary instead of relying on signatures.

“It’s not about signatures, it’s about getting people to vote. And whoever has the numbers should be the Speaker of the House,” Manhit told CNN Philippines’ The Final Word.

“They’re all part of the ruling coalition of the President, so it’s good to work together to push for the legislative priority of our President, given that there is just a little over a year before we really feel the election season by next year,” he added.

Tuesday’s special session will start at 3:00 p.m. Cayetano was earlier expected to preside at the House plenary session.

However, Velasco said he will lead a separate gathering at the Celebrity Sports Plaza this morning with lawmakers to brief them about the 2021 budget.— Source: CNN Philippines Staff

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