By Ellson Quismorio
Members of the House Minority Bloc aren’t cool with political parties’ tendency to back Malacañang’s “anointed one” as far as the Speakership is concerned.
Minority Leader, Quezon 3rd district Rep. Danilo Suarez and Senior Deputy Minority Leader, AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. agree that such action compromises the independence of congressmen, who vote among themselves to determine the Speaker at the start of each Congress.
Asked by reporters during a press conference about their take on the Speakership race in the upcoming 18th Congress, Garbin shared an observation regarding local political parties.
“All parties have a common denominator. Kung sino ang i-annoint ng Presidente, doon mapupunta iyong majority [of congressmen] (Whoever the President anoints would get the majority of congressmen’s votes),” he said.
“How do you feel about that?” a reporter followed up on him.
As if on cue, Suarez and Garbin simultaneously answered: “Nawawala ‘yung independence ng House (The House loses its independence).”
“But that’s the reality of Philippine politics,” Garbin added, his expression remaining deadpan.
In the same presser, Suarez claimed that Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) president, incoming Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez had amassed a significant number of support from his House colleagues as far as his rumored Speakership bid is concerned.
“Matagal na rin ako dito. Yung caliber ng mga kasama ko kabisado ko na (I’ve been here a long time. I’m familiar with the caliber of my colleagues). I know that all of them can be good Speakers. But only one can be outstanding,” Suarez, said referring to his party mate Romualdez.
Grapevine reports said that Romualdez, a former Independent Minority Bloc leader, already has the manifested support of 126 congressmen out of the 290-strong House.
But knowing the “Palace factor” in choosing the next Speaker, Suarez said, “Abangan ang susunod na kabanata (Let’s wait for the next chapter).”
Another Mindanaoan Speaker?
Meanwhile, certain political groups from Mindanao are pushing for re-elected Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers as the next Speaker.
Barbers, the incumbent chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, ran and won in the May 13 midterm polls under the Nacionalista Party (NP) and Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) alliance led by presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
In the event Barbers gets the nod of his colleagues, he will have followed in the footsteps of fellow Mindanaoan Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, who served as Speaker at the beginning of the 17th Congress.
Those backing a Barbers Speakership reckoned that the country needs a young, fresh face but a veteran politician who fully supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies, particularly the campaign against illegal drugs.
For his part, Barbers admitted that he is interested in the possibility of becoming the next House Speaker.
“It is every congressman’s dream to occupy the highest post at the Lower House. I’m a little bit late in announcing my bid, but miracles do happen. Traditionally, the aspirant who gets endorsement from the Palace would be the strongest candidate,” he said.