How big is 'supermajority' in House under a Romualdez speakership?

Published May 19, 2022, 11:42 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

The numbers aren’t officially in yet, but the verdict sure is.

The potential speakership of Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez is expected to give rise to a “supermajority” bloc that would be the biggest the House of Representatives has ever seen since the term first became in vogue in the 17th Congress.

(File photo/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Veteran stalwarts from major political parties in the chamber believe Romualdez is a shoo-in for House Speaker in the upcoming 19th Congress, a position that he arguably should have been voted for in the soon-to-conclude 18th Congress.

Instead, the Leyte solon chose to work quietly as the majority leader for the past three years, surviving even a tumultuous change in speakership midway.

“Rep. Martin Romualdez was the natural choice of legislators before [President Duterte’s] recommendation. As lead campaign manager for the incoming speaker during his 2019 run for the office, I can assure you that we garnered more than enough votes then to make him speaker,” Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) said.

“As to numbers, I leave that to my colleagues, but it’s very likely that the supermajority will be bigger, mirroring the incoming president’s own mandate,” Salceda said, referring to presumptive president Bongbong Marcos.

But what is a “supermajority”? Simply put, it refers to the majority bloc in the House, but on steroids. The House members or congressmen who voted for or aligned themselves with the speaker comprise the majority bloc.

The speakership is determined via nominal vote at the beginning of a given Congress. Traditionally, it’s the person in Malacañang’s personal choice who ends up getting the most votes for the position–a choice that has already been made public.

But Salceda believes Romualdez–who is well-liked and respected by his peers in the chamber–has a lot more going for him as far as the speakership is concerned.

“Now that he has both the support of legislators and the endorsement of the president, nothing will stand in the way. It helps that he also has a close relation of trust with the other power broker of the House, VP-elect [Davao City Mayor] Sara Duterte,” he said.

Romualdez, the president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) party, served as one of the campaign managers of presumptive vice president, Mayor Duterte.

Asked of he thinks the looming supermajority will be bigger and more formidable than those seen in the past, Salceda said, “This will probably be the case.”

Speakership contender Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez (Lakas-CMD Media)

Ultramajority?

So huge is this supermajority bloc that National Unity Party (NUP) vice president for political affairs, Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte prefers to call it the “ulta-majority” bloc. He provided numbers to back up this branding.

“As of the latest count, 278 reelectionist and new legislators, representing almost 95 percent of the 300-plus House members, have endorsed him for [House] Speaker,” Villafuerte said.

“He has sewn up the support of practically all power blocs in the House, including my party, the [NUP], along with President Duterte’s PDP-Laban, Bongbong Marcos’s Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), Nacionalista Party (NP), Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Hugpong ng Pagbabaho (HNP) of presumptive vice president Sara Duterte-Carpio, Lakas-NUCD of former President Arroyo and the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI),” he said of the current majority leader.

The NUP was the first political party to endorse Romualdez for speaker. He has since gained the backing of his most prominent party-mate, returning Pampanga 2nd district Rep .and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; and incumbent House Speaker, Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

“Majority Leader Martin Romualdez’s assumption of the speakership in the 19th Congress is already a fait accompli, given that there is already an ultra-majority of our peers, including myself, who want him to be at the helm of the bigger chamber under the would-be presidency of BBM, who will become the first ever post-EDSA majority chief executive,” added Villafuerte.

Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, an NP stalwart, agrees with the assessments of Salceda and Villafuerte.

“Yes I think theres going to be a super coalition of major political parties supporting Martin Romualdez for Speaker. This would mean a faster and smoother passing of the legislative agenda of our incoming president,” Barbers said.

The Mindanaoan noted that even opposition factions like the Liberal Party (LP)–or at least some of its members–have been “slowly inching their way into the coalition”.

A previous statement from Romualdez’s party, the Lakas-CMD, had identified the LP as part of this emerging majority coalition.

“It doesn’t hurt that we legislators genuinely like working with Martin. Even opposition lawmakers would tell you that it’s very hard to dislike the person,” commented Salceda.

The traditional opposition group in the House–the militant Makabayan bloc–will have also shrunken in membership by the start of the 19th Congress. This is due to the apparent results of the party-list race in the just-concluded May 9 elections.

At any rate, incumbent Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate guaranteed the Makabayan bloc’s independence in the 19th Congress in the face of the bigger supermajority.

“As in previous Congresses, the [Makabayan] bloc will continue and maintain its independence and initiative in its principled engagement with the House leadership, especially in advancing the peoples’ agenda and interests in the 19th Congress,” said Zarate, a senior deputy minority leader in the 18th Congress.

“Obviously, since we campaigned against and opposed the election of the Marcos-Duterte tandem, the presumptive members of the Makabayan bloc in the 19th Congress will become part of the minority; these members will have the rare privilege of carrying the torch of new politics as true and principled opposition in the lower House,” he noted.

As a parting shot, Villafuerte said that “Only a fool will mount a challenge [against Romualdez] on July 25,” or the day of the speakership vote.

“Rep. Martin has already won the support of an ultramajority, which is the biggest coalition ever assembled in the House,” he confidently said.

The elected House Speaker will get to hand-pick the next majority leader, who will directly oversee the members of this supermajority in the 19th Congress.

 
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