By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez has thanked 131 congressional allies who supported his Speakership bid, even as he urged them to “work hard together” to ensure that the coming 18th Congress will dutifully serve the Filipino people.
The anointed House Majority Leader of President Duterte for the 18th Congress, hosted a thanksgiving dinner for his congressional allies at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel Tuesday night.
“I want to join hands with all of you, give thanks and pray to make sure that this 18th Congress may be the best Congress of the Republic of the Philippines because the people deserve the best and with that, thank you to each and every one of you, from the bottom of my heart, we love you all and we will see you next week and we will be working hard together,” he said in his speech.
Romualdez, one of the frontrunners in the Speakership race, gave in to President Duterte’s decision and accepted the possible House Majority Leader post after the Chief Executive named Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as Speaker for the first 15 months and last 21 months, respectively under a term-sharing pact.
During the thanksgiving dinner, Romualdez also expressed gratitude to his colleagues for helping his province recover from the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which heavily battered Tacloban City in November 2013.
“There was a time, not too many years ago and that was after Yolanda when my district, the hardest hit district was demolished. So many people were dead and hopeless. And all of you came to help us. And that is why we are back and that is why I’m here – that the remaining years of my public service – I would also like to give back and return the favor to each and every one of you,” he said.
“If it were working as a Speaker, as any House leader, as Majority Leader, in any capacity, I really want to dedicate my last years in public service working for you, by you, for what you have done for us,” Romualdez, who managed to drop by at Cayetano’s seminar for neophyte lawmakers at the 10th Floor, SM Aura Tower, BGC, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City before his EDSA Shangri-La event, said.
He stayed up to 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning to chat with his House allies from all political parties and influential blocs.
Romualdez also took the opportunity to thank former Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for being his mentor.
“I thank her (Arroyo) for helping me what I am today. She has mentored me during her presidency and speakership years. I was on the sidelines, but beyond her genius mind, her work ethic, and her steadfast convictions to do what is best for the country, I have gained a lot of experience and wisdom from her,” he said.
Arroyo, former President and Speaker, joined the thanksgiving dinner with her husband, Mike Arroyo. Joining them in the same table was Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, the incoming Majority leader’s wife.
Anak Kalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor appealed to various quarters not to inject political color into the thanksgiving dinner hosted by Romualdez, since the incoming House Majority Leader already expressed his all-out support to Cayetano’s speakership.
“I think in the same manner, if Cong. Allan Velasco would call for a get-together, many of us will also be attending because marami pa kaming hindi kilala. There are 300 of us and many, about 100 neophyte members of the House, so this would be a good way to know each other before the official SONA (State of the Nation Address) of the President,” he said in an ambush interview.
“Malinaw naman ‘yong pronouncement ni Presidente. Whatever thanksgiving or gathering or get-together that would happen I think it will have no effect on the announcement of the President,” he said.
Some celebrities also attended Romualdez’s thanksgiving dinner, including Karla Estrada, Toni Gonzaga and The Voice of the Philippines Season 2 winner Jason Dy. Gonzaga and Dy performed during the thanksgiving event.