House Speaker of the Philippines, Romualdez, Cayetano, or Velasco?

Among the names put forward for House Speaker, it seems the most prominent ones are those of Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez and former Foreign Secretary now Taguig Representative Alan Peter Cayetano.

The question that most people will be wrestling with till June 30 or the start of the 18th Congress is, who will win the House Speakership and why is the House Speakership an important factor in our country’s near term political development?

Before I answer these questions, let’s briefly go over the basics just so that we’re all on the same page.

You probably already know that our government has three co-equal branches and these are the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. The Executive branch is comprised of the President and his cabinet. The Legislative branch is composed of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Judiciary is comprised of our Supreme Court and other courts of law.

The Office of the House Speaker was established under Article VI Section Section 16 item 1 of 1987 Philippine Constitution, “The Senate shall elect its President and the House of Representatives its Speaker, by a majority vote of all its respective Members. Each House shall choose such other officers as it may deem necessary.”

The House Speaker and other officers of the House of Representatives are elected Under Rule I Section 1 of the Rules of the House of Representatives of the 17th Congress:

First Meeting and Organization of the House. – The Members shall meet and proceed to the organization of the House on the fourth Monday of July immediately following their election at the place designated for the holding of their sessions.

The Secretary General of the immediately preceding Congress shall preside over the inaugural session of the House until the election of a new Speaker.

As presiding officer, the Secretary General shall call the session to order, call the roll of Members by provinces, cities and municipalities comprising districts, and by party-lists in alphabetical order, designate an acting Floor Leader, and preserve order and decorum.

After the designation of an acting Floor Leader, the body shall proceed to the election of the Speaker.

The Speaker shall be elected by a majority vote of all the Members through a roll call vote with Members casting their vote without explanation. The presiding officer shall record the vote of each Member in the Journal.

After the oath-taking of the newly-elected Speaker, the body shall proceed to the adoption of the rules of the immediately preceding Congress to govern its proceedings until the approval and adoption of the rules of the current Congress.

Thereafter, the body shall proceed to the election, in successive order, of the fourteen (14) Deputy Speakers, the Secretary General and the Sergeant-at-Arms who shall be elected by a majority of the Members, there being a quorum.

What’s interesting about the upcoming House Speakership contest is that before the actual voting for house speaker happens, the House must first elect a Secretary General who will preside over the inaugural session and this position might be crucial because it is the Secretary General who will designate an acting Floor Leader.

How the election of the House Speaker will be, in part, dictated by how well the Secretary General and his designated Floor Leader presides over the process.

Certainly, it’s something to keep an eye on because it could give some indication on how the Speakership race would go if the only factor to consider is how each district representative will vote.

But as some seasoned political observers may say, the actual voting for the House Speaker on the first day of the inaugural session of the 18th Congress may just as well be mere formality.

Because outside of the process described in the rules of the House of Representatives, nominees for House Speakership are agreed upon during caucuses between the major coalitions of political parties.

As of this writing, there is no official document from the House of Representatives upon which we can base the strength of each party which would then be some kind of basis for identifying the party coalitions and their strengths.

The only thing that I found on Google is an entry on Wikipedia which lists the number of congressmen representing each party.

Supposing that the Wiki entry I found is accurate, this is how each party would stack up by the number of elected congressmen:

  1. PDP LABAN which has 82 members
  2. Nacionalista Party which has 42 members
  3. NPC which 36 members
  4. National Unity Party which has 25 members
  5. Liberal Party which has 18 members
  6. Lakas which has 11 members

The other political parties and their number of members are:

  1. Federal Party of the Philippines, 5 members
  2. Hugpong ng Pagbabago, 3 members
  3. Aksyon,1 member
  4. PMP, 1 member
  5. Bukidnon Paglaum, 2 members
  6. LDP, 2 members
  7. HTL, 1 member
  8. PPP, 2 members
  9. Bileg, 1 member
  10. PRP, 1 member
  11. Asenso Abrenio, 1 member
  12. Asenso Manileno, 2 members
  13. CDP, 1 member
  14. Navoteno, 1 member
  15. Kabaka, 2 members
  16. Independent, 2 members

If we were to go strictly by the number of elected congressmen each party has, it would seem that PDP-Laban would have the upper hand in determining the next House Speaker.

Within PDP, it seems three congressmen will be competing for nomination by the party. According to one news report these are former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Pampanga Representative Aurelio Gonzales, and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.

The 42 strong Nacionalista Party is said to be torn between supporting Taguig Representative Alan Peter Cayetano and Lakas CMD President, Leyte congressman Martin Romualdez.

This is largely bolstered by a news item which claims that members of the NP prefer Romualdez to Cayetano as House Speaker.

Last week, the party’s top honchos reelected Sen. Cynthia Villar and former Senate President Manny Villar hosted a thanksgiving dinner for winning Nacionalista officials inside the Laurel Mansion in Mandaluyong City. The country’s oldest existing political entity however has yet to reach a consensus on who to support in the upcoming Speakership race.

Cayetano’s Speakership bid might allegedly face an uphill battle if he can’t muster support from his own party.

One of the NP members backing Romualdez’s bid is outgoing Cavite Governor and incoming 7th district Rep. Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla.

Remulla, a former Deputy Speaker and a senior Nacionalista member is Romualdez’s Upsilon Sigma Phi Fraternity brod in the University of the Philippines.

The 36 strong Nationalist Peoples` Coalition (NPC), instead of fielding a nominee, has come out with a statement saying  NPC would support whoever HNP Chairman and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte would name as her choice for the Speakership.

Congressman Martin Romualdez, in this figuring, would seem to be the underdog with only 11 members including himself.

Anyway, here’s one scenario that I am playing around with:

With Cayetano as NP’s nominee, it’ll be a sure win for PDP (whether it’s Alvarez, Gonzales, or Velasco with a sure 82 versus NP’s 42.

With NP backing Romualdez and entering into a coalition with Lakas, PDP’s towering lead could be whittled down and it would be PDP with 82 versus NP/Lakas with 53.

If we suppose that the 23 congressmen belonging to the 16 other smaller parties coalesce with NP/Lakas for whatever reason, we might see such a coalition inch up on PDP’s 82 with 76 votes.

Then, if we figure the HNP/NPC’s 39 votes, it could be a situation where we could see a PDP led coalition with 121 votes or NP/Lakas led coalition with 115 votes.

Of course, being an outsider, I am just assuming that our congressmen will stick to party lines. But what if they didn’t?

The reason I say this is because of a statement made by outgoing House Minority Speaker Danilo Suarez where he claims that at least 126 lawmakers have signified their supporting for Romualdez. This is just 24 votes shy of the 150 needed to get a majority of the seats in congress.

I’d say there is some basis to this as an academician and political observer said that it’s a free for all battle if President Duterte doesn’t openly endorse or even signal his preference for the House Speakership.

In his words, the academician said, “Bata yung kandidato at medyo maangas. Ang titignan ng mga representatives eh yung okay na makisama.”

Prodding the academician further, he named Velasco as the “maangas” or brash young politician.

Other political observers I’ve talked with also point out that Romualdez had the maturity and stature to be a House Speaker.

One pointed out that the Romualdez family from Leyte was highly regarded both nationally and regionally. 

“The numerous contributions of members of the Romualdez clan to the social, educational, and economic development of Leyte and the entire Eastern Visayas also shed much light on what I would call the enigma of regional development.

“It is not well known that Tacloban, the center of development of the entire Eastern Visayas, was one of the most commercialized in the entire Visayas region.

“Before the devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda in November, 2013, Robinson — the famous retailing outlet — registered its highest sales in the country in its branch in Tacloban. This fact reflected the high purchasing power found in this regional center.” said the political observer. 

Proof of Romualdez’ ability to work together with other congressmen is the passage of two laws which he authored when he was congressman. One is the law exempting PWDs from paying VAt and the law expanding the benefits of PWDS.

Further more, Romualdez co-authored:

  • House Bill 3506 Independent bloc seeks tax exemption of athletes’ awards and prizes
  • Senate Bill 2046 and House Bill 4595 House ratifies Go Negosyo Act
  • House Bill 1803 Fixed five-year term for NBI director
  • House bill 3506 Tax Incentives for Professional Athletes Act of 2013

Yet another political observer I consulted characterized the race for House Speakership as one between mainly between two dyed in the wool Duterte allies and one critical collaborator.

“Cayetano and Velasco pretty well figured out and will probably cleave to whatever Duterte says. That may appeal to the President’s supporters but may alienate many others and that may not necessarily be best for all Filipinos.

“I think House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said it best when she said ‘the power of one, if fearless and focused is formidable, but the power of many working together is better’. If we must choose, why can’t we choose the best from all political sides and make them work together? Romualdez has demonstrated that he can build bridges even between competing political factions and perhaps this can end the divisiveness that has held back Filipinos from unprecedented progress.”

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2 Comments on “House Speaker of the Philippines, Romualdez, Cayetano, or Velasco?”

  1. May the best man win in the House Speakership. This House Speaker , must know how to work with Pres. Duterte; and must help in the passing of laws for the good of all of us and the country. We don’t want too much partisanship; playing too much politics; and too much incompetence.

    We will be watching them closely, and kick them out, if they cannot deliver their promises and cannot perform…

  2. Avoid those who seek friends in order to maintain a certain social status or to open doors they would not otherwise be able to approach.

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