Romualdez next speaker — solon

Martin Romualdez

IN a free for all speakership fight, Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez has the ace to win the House top post, a high-ranking Mindanao House leader said yesterday.

Deputy Speaker and Sulu Rep. Munir Arbison said Romualdez has the numbers to win the Speakership of the incoming 18th Congress after getting the backing of the majority of their colleagues.

“Whatever the President’s choice will be the Speaker. If he (President Rodrigo Duterte) will not intervene Martin has the ace,” said Arbison.

Earlier, President Duterte vowed to exercise a “hands off” policy in the selection of the next Speaker while her daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, chairperson of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) regional party, said she was not in the position to pick the House leader.

ANAC-IP Party-List Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, said Romualdez has the experience and leadership advantage compared to the other Speaker-wannabes and is the most acceptable to the overwhelming majority of their colleagues.

Panganiban said Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), “has the edge in leadership qualities, experience, and goodwill among House members” compared to the other candidates in the Speakership race.

But while the seeming Palace’s tune is not to meddle in the Speakership race, Panganiban lamented that many lawmakers will support whoever will be chosen by President Duterte even if the candidate is perceived weak.

“[The biggest trump card is] closeness to the president, unfortunately,” Panganiban lamented. “The congressmen will always abide even of the pick of the President is the weakest choice.”

Pampanga Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales, also a Speaker-wannabe, denied that candidates for Speakership race bribed their colleagues.

“Yan ang bali-balita sa floor pero ‘di pa rin ako naniniwala,” said Gonzales.

Earlier, House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo “Danny” Suarez said Romualdez is a sure winner in the Speakership race following the declaration of President Duterte that he will let lawmakers elect its leader.

Suarez bared that a manifesto of support for Romualdez has reached the “magic number” or more than 153, which is enough to win the Speakership race.

Romualdez, head of the House Independent Bloc in the previous 16th Congress, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the Ivy League school, Cornell University, and a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management from Harvard University.

He also earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines.