Term-sharing deal for Speaker should be enforced — lawmaker

House-Congress plenary hall

DEPUTY Speaker Paolo S. Duterte on Thursday said Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco should assert the term-sharing deal with Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano.

“It can’t be denied that such term-sharing agreement was made before,” he said in a statement. “Because of this, Congressman Velasco has the right to assert his claim to the speakership.”

Under the pact brokered by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last year, Mr. Cayetano would be Speaker in the first 15 months of the 18th Congress, and Mr. Velasco would serve for the remaining 21 months.

The House on Tuesday suspended sessions earlier than scheduled, preventing Mr. Velasco from taking over the post on Oct. 14. Mr. Cayetano, who rejected the term-sharing deal he had agreed to, moved to terminate debates and sessions until Nov. 16.

Congressmen voted through loud ayes and nays on Zoom Cloud Meetings, but other lawmakers including Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, who supports Mr. Velasco, claimed their microphones had been muted during the session.

Some party-list congressmen earlier said legislative proceedings had been hijacked, noting that few lawmakers were allowed to go to the House plenary hall in Quezon City. Majority of House members attend sessions via Zoom amid a coronavirus pandemic.

The younger Mr. Duterte had threatened to declare the speakership post vacant after some congressmen complained of inequitable distribution of public works funds among congressional districts in next year’s spending plan.

Some House blocs and partisan camps on Thursday criticized the suspension of the plenary sessions.

In a joint statement, members of the House minority said the termination of the plenary debates on the 2021 budget was premature and violated House rules.

“The minority takes exception to this action as we again emphasize that budget deliberations should not be derailed by a speakership row — a matter that should be settled by the majority among themselves,” they said.

Some lawmakers belonging to the House majority also slammed the leadership row.

The 41-member National People’s Coalition (NPC) at the House said the suspension had compromised the passage of the budget bill.

“This is unprecedented and in clear disregard of the House rules, parliamentary courtesy and tradition,” they said in a statement. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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