Barbers throws hat into speakership derby

By Ellson Quismorio

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers says he will be relying on four “advantages” in his candidacy for House Speaker in the upcoming 18th Congress.

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)
Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

“First, I’m a veteran member of the House, I’ve been a member since the 11th Congress,” said Barbers, who was reelected as congressman in the May 13 midterm polls.

“Second, I’ve already handled various committees such as the Economic Affairs, Accounts, and Dangerous Drugs committees,” he said. For the 17th Congress – which adjourned sine die last Tuesday – Barbers steered the Dangerous Drugs panel in line with the anti-illegal drug campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Third, I’m a Mindanaoan. And lastly I support the Duterte administration’s program,” he further underscored.

The Speakership has been described as a wide open affair after President Duterte declared that he was not inclined to pick a horse in the race, and basically let the congressmen decide among themselves on who should be their new leader.

This pronouncement by Duterte gave Barbers and other unlikely bets a more or less even shot at the post, since every House member could theoretically follow their own choice in the absence of an “anointed one” from the Palace.

“Traditionally, the aspirant who gets endorsement from the Palace would be the strongest candidate,” acknowledged Barbers when he bared his Speakership bid last May 22.

“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,” he said.

Also reported to be vying for the Speaker’s seat were incoming Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez, incoming Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, reelected Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, reelected Pampanga 3rd district Rep. Dong Gonzales, reelected Davao Oriental 2nd district Rep. Joel Almario, reelected Capiz 2nd district Rep. and Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, and reelected Davao del Norte 2nd district Rep. and former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

All of these Speaker-wannabes are staunch allies of President Duterte.

Outgoing Pampanga 2nd district Rep. and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo served as the Speaker for the third and final regular session of the 17th Congress.