Although I am steadfast in my position that the term-sharing agreement which President Rodrigo Duterte brokered between then Representatives Alan Peter Cayetano and Lord Alan Velasco or what is also known as the “1521” deal must be honored and respected, I could not sustain the validity of the rump assembly held at the Celebrity Sports Plaza on October 12, 2020 wherein Rep. Lord Alan Velasco was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives for the following overriding reasons:
A Speaker must be elected when the House is in session in open and public plenary proceedings.
Although the precipitate suspension of the sessions starting in the afternoon of October 6, 2020 up to November 15, 2020 is questionable, the legitimacy of said suspension has not been challenged before the proper forum and there has been no official declaration of its nullity.
Absent such declaration voiding the questionable suspension, such suspension prevailed when the rump assembly was held.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte has acknowledged the absence of a congressional session so much so that he called the Congress to a special session from October 13 to 17, 2020 under Proclamation No. 1027 “in order to resume the congressional deliberations of the proposed 2021 national budget and to avoid any further delays on the prompt passage thereof in accordance with the Constitution and applicable laws, rules and regulations”.
Legislative sessions of either the Senate or the House of Representatives cannot be conducted in any other place than in which the two Houses shall be sitting without the consent of the other. Accordingly, Sec. 16(5) of Art. VI of the Constitution provides: “Neither House during the sessions of the Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.” (Emphasis supplied).
Granting that the suspension of the session on October 6, 2020 is invalid, and the sessions continue, the so-called session called at the Celebrity Sports Plaza had no consent of the Senate, and consequently it was not legal and constitutional.
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. 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.
While the call of the President for a four-day special session focused on the deliberations and enactment of the General Appropriations Bill (House Bill No. 7727), such proclamation cannot restrict or prevent the exercise of the House of its inherent power to settle the issue on the retention or change of the House Speaker.
If either contender has the support of the absolute majority of the Members of the House, then the nominal voting will not last for more than one (1) hour, which is a small fraction of the four-day session devoted to the consideration of the national budget.
EDCEL C. LAGMAN