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Opinion

Congress now on stereo

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila - The Freeman

To prove to you that the 2022 presidential election is fast coming, you can see a glimpse of the things to come with what has happened in Congress when Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque) moved forward to unseat House speaker Alan Peter Cayetano. Rep. Velasco was elected House speaker by his allies after the faction of 186 congressmen conducted a remote session at the Celebrity Sports Plaza in Quezon City last Monday.

As many netizens pointed out, we used to only have one speaker in the House of Representatives, but we now have two speakers. Thus, Congress is not on “stereo mode”. Rep. Cayetano and his faction have previously said that any session held by Velasco's group at this time would be illegal.

"We are all here, and this is a testament to our indomitable spirit and our collective commitment to honoring our word...who are we if we cannot live up to our word?" Velasco said as he was sworn in. "We commit to pass laws that are responsive to the needs of our fellow Filipinos."

Now you should know that according to the House rules, “the position of Speaker may only be declared vacant through nominal voting by a majority vote of all the Members. In cases when all offices are declared vacant, the incumbent Secretary General shall preside over the proceedings of the House only for the purpose and until the election of a new Speaker.”

This means that more than the 152 votes are required to get a majority vote in the House.

Addressing the body via a Zoom call, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro, 2nd District) argued that holding the remote session was lawful and constitutional, as the mace is only symbolic since authority to hold session comes from majority of congressmen present. He added that "the true manifestation of authority of each house is in the plenary when there is a majority present," he said, arguing that Cayetano's suspension of the House session until mid-November was "unconstitutional, as well as a violation of the legislative calendar."

The session, which was livestreamed on Radio Television Malacañang, saw lawyer Jocelia Bighani Sipin also sworn in as secretary-general of the House of Representatives. The House session was officially suspended by Cayetano himself until Tuesday when it is set to convene for a special session that Duterte called for last week, citing the need to pass the nation's budget.

Meanwhile,  Rep. LRay Villafuerte also slammed the Velasco faction for what he said was its usage of "black propaganda" and "fake news."

"The official venue is the Batasan in Quezon City. This is where the battle should be. You have to elect a vacancy in the plenary. What if on Monday we have another session in BGC or Taguig? We are lawmakers. We are becoming a laughingstock," he said.

In the meantime, Rep. Cayetano also slammed Velasco and his allies for what he said were their violations of quarantine protocols set by the government's coronavirus task force. "So many country clubs have already been closed by the IATF...They're making rules, but they're also rule-breakers," he said in a mix of English and Filipino. "If that's valid, we're a banana republic. If I got 152 to meet at a country club tomorrow, do you mean that will be valid? This is unprecedented. Never in the history of the Philippines has this depravity been done to Congress." Indeed, this has never happened to Congress in this country.

In another news, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Central Visayas has allowed traditional jeepney units to ply the Cebu City roads while the coronavirus quarantine is still in effect.

At least 1,750 jeepneys were approved to operate in 14 routes in the city, but only until December of this year.

This was reported by LTFRB-7 Director Eduardo Montealto, who said that his office has recommended to the Cebu City government only 35 percent of the total number of jeepneys plying in the city.  This means around 5,000 traditional jeepneys can now operate in Cebu City. LTFRB-7 and city government officials are set to meet on October 15 to discuss the former’s recommendation and the start of the operation. Indeed this meeting is crucial for the success in the return of businesses in Cebu City.

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For email responses to this article, write to [email protected] His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com

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