Cayetano, Velasco allies clash over fate of speakership vote sans House session

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 7) — Allies of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Speaker-in-waiting Lord Allan Velasco are still at odds over the fate of the leadership in the lower chamber come October 14.

On Wednesday, lawmakers allied to Velasco claimed that they have the "majority" to elect him on the said date, as part of the 15-21 term-sharing deal between him and Cayetano.

Session is currently suspended in the House until November 16 after Cayetano on Tuesday, moved to terminate deliberations for the 2021 budget.

But Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said a session can still be held on the 14th, with or without Cayetano.

"The power in Congress rests in the majority of members. If the majority decides to hold a session on the 14th with or without Cayetano, we can do that," he said.

AAMBIS-OWA Party-list Rep. Sharon Garin said that "there are talks going around" and "calls are being made" among lawmakers vouching for Velasco regarding their next move.

"If we were receiving calls two days ago, then we are receiving more calls today. Medyo nag-react ang marami (A lot of people reacted)," she said in a press briefing. "We are confident that when the time comes, or even before that, we'll have more than the majority."

Garin, who was recently stripped of her chairmanship of the economic affairs panel along with other Velasco allies, stressed that they will strive to uphold the term-sharing agreement between the two leaders.

"We will do it...whether it's on October 14, after October 14, or on November 16."

Meanwhile, allies of Cayetano insisted that holding a session on the 14th would be "illegal."

"Sarado na ang plenary, hindi ko alam paano sila magkakaroon ng access doon. Maraming kailangan para sila ay makapag-session," Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales said in a separate briefing. "It will be an illegal session dahil naka-suspend ang session hanggang November 16."

[Translation: The plenary is already closed, I do not know how they will have access to that because they will need to do a lot of things to call for a session. It will be an illegal session because session is suspended until November 16.]

Deputy Speaker Luis Ray Villafuerte also stressed that everything has to be done "in accordance to the rules, and in the plenary."

On Tuesday, Velasco said that Cayetano's move to "maneuver" the House Rules and calendar shows that he is avoiding the speakership turnover.

In the original House calendar, suspension of session is slated for October 17 until November 15.

Meanwhile, Malacañang expressed optimism that there would be no delays in the passage of the national budget despite the leadership tussle. Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said that Palace can also call for a special session in a bid to prevent the delay of the budget’s passage.