(Photo Courtesy: Manila Bulletin)

Several lawmakers are set to gather on Monday and elect Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In a manifesto circulated to the media, 187 lawmakers have called to assemble, declare the post of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano vacant, and elect Velasco as the House’s next top leader.

“In accordance with Section 13, Rule 3 of the Rules of the House of Representatives, of the 18th Congress, we call to assemble, move to and cast our vote to declare the position of Speaker VACANT on Monday, October 12, 2020,” the manifesto read.

“Further, also in accordance with the same section, we will move to and cast our vote to declare Representative Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress,” it added.

The lawmakers slammed the move of the House leadership to “unceremoniously” terminate the budget deliberations and approve the 2021 General Appropriations Bill on second reading.

“The current House leadership deprived the Filipino People of exercising, through their duly-elected Representatives, their right to participate in crafting a national budget that would best serve the country,” they said.

“The House members were stripped of their legislative duty to scrutinize the spending plan of various important agencies,” they further said.

The lawmakers pointed out that the creation of a “small committee” that will accept alterations to the budget is an “invalid delegation” that effectively railroads and replaces the important budget process, which is comprised of sponsorship, debate, and amendments.

“This act runs contrary to Congress’ responsibility to craft an open, transparent and meaningful budget that is beneficial to the Filipino people. The power of Congress is bastardized when it was divested from the plenary, in each and every individual legislator, and purposely let to be monopolized by a select few,” they said.

The lawmakers further argued that the act of suspending session from Oct. 6 to Nov. 16 is against the letter and intent of the Constitution and violates the House rules of the 18th Congress.

“As we remain steadfast in our duty, we believe that the House of Representatives needs a true leader who can inspire, and not discourage colleagues; a leader who can unite, and not divide the House; a leader with a heart of a public servant, and not with a heart of a tyrant; a leader who listens and empowers others, and not just to a clique who builds walls to shun others; and a leader who is committed to serving the people rather than serving his self-interest and personal ambition,” the lawmakers said.

Among those named in the manifesto were: Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, Valenzuela Rep. Eric Martinez, Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda; Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, Rizal Rep. Jack Duavit, Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, Valenzuela Rep. Wes Gatchalian, and 1-Pacman Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero.

Last Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte, through Proclamation 1027, called on Congress to hold a special session on Oct. 13 to 16 to “resume the congressional deliberations on 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”.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte wants Congress to set aside politics and instead work on the timely passage of the proposed PHP4.5 trillion national budget for 2021.

“Ang panawagan po ng Presidente sa mga Kongresista: isantabi ang politika at ipasa ang proposed 2021 budget (The call of the President to representatives: Set aside politics and pass the proposed 2021 budget),” Roque said in a brief announcement made over PTV-4 on Sunday.

Roque, however, clarified that the President will not interfere in the leadership tussle taking place in the House of Representatives.

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