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Speaker as caretaker

That was a powerful statement of commitment from Congress to the grieving constituents of a recently departed member of the House.

The message is clear and direct: This chamber is not leaving anyone behind.

It was a reassuring collective gesture, especially during this dangerous and difficult period of the pandemic.

To ensure unimpeded and efficient services to the people of the First District of Cebu, the House of Representatives has designated Speaker Lord Allan Velasco as caretaker of the area following the death of former Deputy Speaker and Cebu Rep. Raul Veloso Del Mar, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said on Thursday.

“Our good Speaker Lord Allan Velasco is the most competent and qualified leader to take care of the legislative district of our late colleague, former Deputy Speaker Raul V. Del Mar. Speaker Velasco will ensure the unhampered flow of service to address the concerns of Cebu’s First District,” Romualdez said.

Velasco’s designation as caretaker was “upon the wishes of the late Rep. Del Mar, as communicated by his family and constituency.”

The House also elected former Batangas Rep. Mark Llandro “Dong” Mendoza as its new Secretary-General after Atty. Jocelia Bighani Sipin tendered her resignation early Wednesday.

“Congressman Dong Mendoza is another able and competent leader who can assist Speaker Velasco to navigate the House of Representatives to greater heights,” Romualdez said on Mendoza who is his good friend.

Sipin would assume a new position as Deputy Secretary General to work closely with Velasco and oversee the affairs of his office.

“Deputy Secretary General Sipin, the long-time trusted Chief of Staff of Speaker Velasco, will always make her boss successful and effective because of her good skills, competence and strong leadership,” the Leyte lawmaker said.

Earlier, the Commission on Elections said it would wait for the decision of the House if it would declare a vacancy or order a special election following the death of Del Mar early this week.

“What we would do is to wait for the declaration of vacancy by the House leadership and will say that there is a need to conduct a special poll,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said on Thursday.

Jimenez, however, said the holding of a special election has a time limit.

“But remember, special elections should not be held within one year before the next elections. It has a natural time limit, being May 9, 2021,” he said.

The next national and local elections scheduled in May 2022.

The Comelec spokesman said it is the prerogative of the House leadership to just declare a caretaker.

“We are just waiting to be told to conduct special polls,” he added.

The Cebu legislator died on Monday. He was 79.