By Ellson Quismorio
Surigao del Sur 2nd district Johnny Pimentel is pleading to President Rodrigo Duterte to bare his personal choice for House Speaker, if only to save the chamber from dysfunction and disarray in the upcoming 18th Congress.
“Congress is in chaos now because every candidate is trying to pressure the congressmen to choose them and the congressmen are in a quandary [regarding] whom to choose,” Pimentel said, referring to the half a dozen Speaker-aspirants jockeying for the position.
“As a result, Congress is divided at the moment and that is not a good start for the 18th Congress,” added Pimentel, who is the President’s party-mate at Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Frontrunners for the top post in the House of Representatives are Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez and Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
Also vying for the Speakership are Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, Surigao del Norte 2nd Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, Davao Oriental 2nd district Rep. Joel Almario, Capiz 2nd district Rep. and Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, Pampanga 3rd district Rep. Dong Gonzales, and former Speaker and Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
President Duterte declared last month that he would take a “hands off” approach on the Speakership derby and let the House members decide among themselves who should be the next leader.
But Pimentel said that it’s imperative for the Chief Executive to walk back on this decision and anoint a Speaker “to maintain stability in Congress.”
“The President must endorse a candidate so that the 18th Congress will be united in supporting his legislative agenda,” he stressed.
“Masyadong magulo ang Congress ngayon di alam ng mga congressmen kung saan pupunta. Hindi magandang simula na nag-aaway away mga congressmen ngayon pa lang. (There’s too much chaos in Congress right now, the congressmen don’t know where they will go. It’s not a good start for the congressmen to quarrel this early),” added Pimentel, a former chairman of the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.
Duterte and Romualdez were reportedly seen together at a private wake where he addressed the Leyte lawmaker as “Mr. Speaker” in front of his close aides Senator-elect Christopher “Bong” Go and Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo and told him to tag along.
Another person who could influence the outcome of the race is presidential daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
The younger Duterte referred to Romualdez as the “next Speaker” during a campaign sortie of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) slate in Leyte.
But rumors say her actual bet is Velasco, who accompanied her to nearly all campaign sorties in the lead up to the May 13 midterm polls. Sometimes, the Marinduque solon would even serve as emcee for these events.
Romualdez, a banker and lawyer by profession, is the president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and political party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD). He was the House Independent Bloc leader of the 16th Congress.
Velasco, a PDP-Laban stalwart, chaired the Committee on Energy during the 17th Congress.