Who is for who? Cayetano claims he has 200 supporters, but 186 solons vote for Velasco

By: Neil Arwin Mercado - Reporter / @NAMercadoINQ - Inquirer.net | October 12,2020 - 06:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines — Many are still puzzled over the events involving House lawmakers on Monday after Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco was “elected” as the new Speaker of the lower chamber in a session described by allies of Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano “illegal”—and the numbers are not helping in giving some clarity.

In a session at the Celebrity Sports Complex, 186 lawmakers voted to elect Velasco as the new Speaker, thus ousting incumbent Speaker Cayetano.

But merely an hour after the said “election,” Cayetano’s office released a manifesto showing 200 congressmen backing his continued leadership.

Lawmakers who signed the manifesto, titled “The Philippines at a Crossroads,” called on Velasco to “respect the collective desire of his peers to allow the continuation of Speaker Cayetano’s exemplary leadership.”

Cayetano’s office released the manifesto to the media merely an hour after Velasco was elected by 186 House members as the new Speaker at the Celebrity Sports Complex in Quezon City—a session the Taguig-Pateros lawmaker has described as “fake.”

In the manifesto, the lawmakers said that the rejection of Cayetano’s resignation offer already rendered the term-sharing between the two congressmen “moot and academic.”

To recall, on September 30, Cayetano offered to resign even if he was expected to remain as Speaker until October 14 as part of his term-sharing agreement with Velasco. This, however, was rejected by the majority of House members.

“We applaud Speaker Cayetano’s selfless act of offering to step down earlier than required in order to ensure the swift and orderly passage of the 2021 budget. And we join the majority in rejecting his offer, as we firmly believe that such an act would have the opposite effect, and would in fact jeopardize everything that the 18th Congress has been able to achieve thus far,” the lawmakers said.

“Following the President’s call for the individual members of the House of Representatives to vote freely and without reservation on who we wish to lead this chamber, we the undersigned hereby manifest our full and unequivocal support for the continued leadership of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano,” they added.

Cayetano’s manifesto contains 200 signatories out of the 299-member House. However, 186 lawmakers voted to elect Velasco.

This means that there are lawmakers who voted to elect the Velasco but also signed Cayetano’s manifesto.

It is still unclear who these lawmakers are as Velasco’s camp has yet to release the official breakdown of the votes as of posting time.

There are also certain issues that can be observed when the manifesto and the session at the Celebrity Sports Complex are compared.

In the initial copy of the manifesto sent to the media, Dinagat Islands Rep. Alan 1 Ecleo has two signatories—but with different signatures.

But Cayetano’s office later clarified that this was just a typographical error and that one of the signatories was that of Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun.

Moreover, among the signatories in Cayetano’s manifesto are Deputy Speaker Conrado Estrella III, Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, and Zamboanga del Sur 1st District Rep. Divina Grace Yu.

However, it was Estrella who presided over the session where Velasco was elected while both Mangudadatu and Yu nominated the Marinduque lawmaker to become House Speaker.

In a phone interview, Mangudadatu denied giving his consent for his signature to be included in the manifesto.

The lawmaker explained that while he previously voted to reject Cayetano’s previous resignation offer, he is for Velasco’s speakership as part of the term-sharing agreement.

“Wala akong consent. I don’t have any consent. What I had was during the Speaker’s speech na mare-resign siya last October 1 and I voted for him at that time. But I said that ‘yes’ na boto ko hanggang October 14 lang kasi may kasunduan sila ni Lord Allan Velasco na bababa siya on the 14th of October,” Mangudadatu told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview.

INQUIRER.net also contacted Estrella and Yu for a comment but has yet to receive a reply from them as of posting time. [ac]

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