By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The three contenders for the House speakership have agreed to unite and respect President Duterte’s decision on the race.
Well-placed sources said the decision was arrived at during a meeting of Duterte Coalition leaders– Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte and Mayor Inday Sara Duterte with speakership bets Reps. Martin Romualdez of Leyte, Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque, and Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig-Pateros in Davao City on Saturday, July 6.
“The contenders agreed to respect, honor the President’s decision. They agreed to rally behind the President’s legislative agenda,” the source said.
The source said the three speakership bets are now leaving their fate up to the President.
Another source said that President Duterte might declare his bet for speaker “soon” to ensure the stability of the House leadership and ensure the immediate approval of his priority reform measures.
“The President might change his decision and might finally pick his choice soon to end the heated speakership race, ensure the stability of the House as an institution, and ensure the swift passage of his priority legislative reforms,” the source said.
The Chief Executive had earlier said he would not endorse any speakership bet.
Presidential son Rep. Paolo Duterte described as “cordial” the Saturday meeting “where they discussed the progress of the country.”
Meanwhile, leaders of three powerful blocs in the House of Representatives vouched for the leadership and credentials of Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, calling him the “most logical choice” for the fourth highest post in the land.
Citing the results of the latest survey, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, president of the National Unity Party (NUP), said Romualdez is the “top choice” of their constituents in the legislative districts.
“All aspirants for speakership deserve the position but for majority of the congressmen, Congressman Martin is the most logical choice for the top House post,” he said.
“Not only is he a kindred spirit to his colleagues in Congress; Congressman Martin is also well-respected due to his vast experience in public and private sector governance. Based on results of the latest survey, he is also the choice of our constituents in the legislative districts,” he added.
For his part, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, a member of the 54-strong Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI), cited that more than 160 congressmen have signed the manifesto of support for the speakership bid of Romualdez.
“Whoever is chosen by the majority is the winner in any election. That is simple logic. Congressman Martin has the numbers. It is but logical that the choice of the majority should be the one to sit as speaker in the 18th Congress,” he said.
The former presidential chief of staff said that once he validates the manifesto of support, President Duterte may change his mind and endorse Romualdez.
President Duterte had earlier said he was keeping his hands-off stance on the speakership race.
“Right now, the President is sticking to his position not to interfere in the speakership race,” Defensor said.
“But I believe that he will eventually change his position and endorse Congressman Martin as speaker once he sees the final tally in the manifesto of support (for Romualdez),” he added.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, a member of the PDP-Laban, said the credentials, and the governance and legislation experience of Romualdez made the Leyte lawmaker the most qualified bet.
“An Ivy League graduate in Government from Cornell University and special studies in Administration and Management from Harvard University. A lawyer from the University of the Philippines. An experienced banker and economist who also served three-terms in the House of Representatives. Congressman Martin is primus inter pares material in Congress,” he said.
Salceda cited that majority of congressmen rallied behind the speakership’s bid of Romualdez, believing that he could help President Duterte sustain the country’s economic growth until 2022.
“If the President wants to achieve his goals for the country, it is important to have legislative support of the supermajority in the lower chamber. The lower chamber needs a leader who will push for the economic measures of the administration,” he said.
“Rep. Martin Romualdez as a speaker is good for the economy, as well as the economic and business leaders concerned,” he added.
Castro, who served as former majority leader of the 17th Congress, took note of a recent survey conducted by the RP-Mission and Development Foundation Inc. (RPMDinc) showing that Romualdez was the preferred choice for speaker with 30 percent, followed by Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano with 23 percent.
Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez landed third with 18 percent while Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco got 14 percent.
“Not only is Congressman Martin the congressmen’s choice for speaker; he is also the people’s choice,” Castro said.
San Jose del Monte City lone district Rep. Florida Robes acknowledged the independence of senators and congressmen in choosing their own leaders for their respective chambers.
“Let the words of President Manuel Quezon be our guide then in casting our votes: My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins,” she said, pointing to one of the more respected leaders in the country’s history.
Robes also said leaders of political parties should re-think their position of imposing sanctions on party-mates who do not toe the official party line on the speakership fight. (With Ellson Quismorio)