House to keep number of deputy speakers down to just a handful

House Speaker Martin Romualdez is poised to set himself apart from his more recent predecessors by designating the fewest number of deputy speakers since the days of the 16th Congress almost a decade ago.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez (Facebook)

In one of its first acts as a body on Monday, July 25, the House elected as senior deputy speaker, Pampanga 2nd district Rep. and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; and as deputy speaker Davao City 3rd district Rep. Isidro Ungab; Antipolo 1st district Rep. Roberto Puno; Las Pinas lone district Rep. Camille Villar; Ilocos Sur 2nd district Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan; and TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza, for a total of six solons holding the deputy speaker title.

Source said that the speaker intends to designate one last deputy speaker, which would push the total to seven in the current 19th Congress.

If Romualdez can keep it this way, then it would be the first time since the 16th Congress in 2013 that there were fewer than 10 deputy speakers in the House of Representatives. Then-Speaker, Quezon City 4th district Rep. Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr. only had six deputy speakers under him.

The same source said the decision to reduce the number of deputy speakers was in line with the reforms the new speaker wants to introduce in the lower chamber.

It is also attuned to the call of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to "rightsize" or streamline the government, which, incidentally, the Philippine leader would highlight in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) later that day.

But just how copious have deputy speakers been in the past? In the 17th Congress, then-Speaker, Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez handpicked 15 deputy speakers in what seen at that time as a radical move.

When Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over from Alvarez, she would name five more deputy speakers, meaning at total of 20 congressmen held that title in the 17th Congress.

The 18th Congress, which featured the speakerships of Taguig-Pateros lone district Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, would bestow the deputy speaker title to a total of 40 House members. There were 33 sitting deputy speakers when the 18th Congress adjourned sine die on June 2.

It's the prerogative of the speaker to pick as many deputy speakers that he or she wants. The tasks of a deputy speaker are the following:

-to assume the duties and powers of the speaker when so chosen by a majority vote or by lot among themselves, as the case may be, in cases of absence or temporary incapacity of the speaker, until such time that the speaker returns to office and resumes work; and, in case of resignation, removal, permanent incapacity or death of the speaker, until such time that a new speaker is elected and qualified;

-to preside over the session when, even if present, the speaker does not preside, or has not designated any other member as temporary presiding officer;

-to monitor, coordinate and facilitate action on measures filed, requests, and other concerns of Members representing constituencies to which they may be assigned by the speaker;

-to recommend to the speaker appropriate policies, strategies and programs of action to improve the process of legislation and the quality of legislative measures, and to effectively address concerns of members on matters affecting them, their constituencies, and the overall operations and integrity of the House;

-to appoint personnel of the House when so authorized by the speaker; and

-to perform such other duties and functions as may be assigned or delegated to them by the speaker.