House now has 32 deputy speakers

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    THE number of deputy speakers of the House of Representatives has ballooned to 32 after allies of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco were elected to the position before the session was adjourned on Wednesday night for the Christmas break.

    The last to be elected as deputy speakers were Cavite Reps. Abraham Tolentino, a known ally of former speaker Alan Cayetano, and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City.

    Tolentino was the chair the House committee on accounts under the Cayetano leadership until he was replaced by presidential son Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte when Velasco became speaker, while Ungab, the former chair of the committee on appropriations, was replaced by ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap who remains the panel’s chair until now.

    There were only 22 deputy speakers when Cayetano was the speaker and even then, he already drew flak for allegedly accommodating many of those who backed his speakership bid.

    Now that there are 32 deputy speakers, the House will have to spend additional budgets for the offices of the new House leaders who will also have voting powers in various committees, being ex-officio members.

    Last Decembers 7, the House elected as deputy speakers Reps. Arnolfo Teves of Negros Oriental, Juan Pablo Bondoc of Pampanga, Eric Martinez of Valenzuela, Bernadette Herrera-Dy of Bagong Henerasyon party-list, Kristine Meehan of Ilocos Sur, Divina Grace Yu of Zamboanga del Sur, Rogelio Pacquiao of Sarangani, Weslie Gatchalian of Valenzuela City, and Bienvenido Abante Jr. of Manila.

    Last month, Las Piñas Rep. Camille Villar, who is a party mate of the former speaker in the Nacionalista Party, declined after she was elected deputy speaker in place of Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, who is a staunch Cayetano supporter.

    Also on Wednesday night, Cayetano ally Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor was replaced as chair of public accounts panel by Probinsiyano Ako party-list Rep. Bonito Singson Jr.

    “Speaker Lord Velasco is the worst. He didn’t even have the courtesy to talk with me even as we had a short meeting last week as regards the investigation to be conducted by the committee on public accounts,” Defensor later told reporters.

    Defensor said he even agreed when the Speaker requested that investigations be suspended until January and “I would not have resisted if he had asked me to give up the position as I have said in the past.”

    “I would have appreciated this as I would readily give up the post. I intimated this to Cong. Sison and many colleagues who all share my surprise at the Speaker’s actions. These actions show arrogance and unprofessionalism from Speaker Velasco and cause citizens to doubt his ability to lead the House at a time when we need unity,” he said.

    “Civility and leadership dictates that even as we have differences in the past leadership fight, that we treat each other in a respectable manner. I am comforted by the thought that clear lines have been drawn and in the spirit of the season, I wish Speaker a Merry Christmas. See you next year,” he said.

    Defensor, who was among those who had called for the retention of Cayetano as speaker last October, said Velasco’s leadership is “causing distrust of the Congress among Filipinos.”

    He said Velasco’s move to appoint 32 deputy speakers “has been criticized.”