By Ben Rosario
The Visayan bloc in the House of Representatives on Tuesday agreed to vote for a common candidate for Speaker of the incoming 18th Congress.
In a closed-door meeting presided by Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, convenor of the organization of congressmen from the Visayas region, the lawmakers reached a consensus to meet again next month to choose who to support in the speakership race.
Benitez said the Visayan Bloc membership in the next Congress is expected to increase from the current 41 to at least 47 members coming from various political parties and partylist organizations.
“The Visayan Bloc has demonstrated how unity works in the pursuit of common legislative agenda for the Visayas region. Unanimity in purpose will be our way of choosing the next speaker,” said Benitez.
However, the outgoing chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development admitted that some members of the organization might toe the party line of his or her political party in voting for the next speaker.
“But Visayan Bloc members vowed to take a united stand in choosing who will lead the Lower House in the next Congress,” Benitez stated.
The “graduating” lawmaker noted that incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez was the only candidate for Speaker, who will be representing a congressional district in the Visayas.
On the other hand, former Speaker and Davao Del Norte Pantaleon Alvarez is Visayan-speaking.
However, the three other candidates, namely, Reps. Lord Allan Velasco (PDP-Laban, Marinduque); Alan Peter Cayetano (NP, Taguig City) and Aurelio Gonzales (PDP-Laban, Pampanga) represent congressional districts in Luzon.
Benitez said the selection criteria will be released to members before the Visayan Bloc’s next meeting in July.