HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez on Saturday said he respects the position of his ally and dear friend Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor to join the “BTS sa Kongreso” coalition or “Back to Service” led by former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, stressed this after Defensor, former chairman of the House committee on public accounts, told reporters during the coalition’s launching last Thursday that he is a close ally of the House Majority Leader and an affiliate of the once-administration party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD).
“I respect Mike’s diligence, views and opinions, political and otherwise,” said Romualdez, President of Lakas-CMD.
“Cong. Mike Defensor is a friend, a dear friend. It is also true that he is affiliated with our party, the Lakas-CMD, along other party-list congressmen and congresswomen who we consider as allies in the House of Representatives,” Romualdez stressed.
Romualdez vowed to continue working with the majority and minority groups in his capacity as their elected Majority Leader to pass the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte in the remaining term of the latter’s administration under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.
“More than a friend to Mike, I am the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. It is my duty to work as a leader not only of the majority coalition, but also of the minority and independent House Members. I will fulfill this duty to the best of my ability so we can all serve our people the best way we can,” explained Romualdez, a lawyer from the University of the Philippines (UP) and President of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
The “BTS sa Kongreso” is expected to be critical of unpopular policies of the Velasco leadership such as Charter change (Cha-cha), but would be supportive of all good measures and proposals of the present House leadership.
Cayetano clarified that the “BTS sa Congress” coalition is not after the House Speakership.
“Sa inyong sa inyo na ‘yung Speakership, isaksak niyo pa sa baga n’yo, no problem sa amin. Hindi ‘yun ang issue dito. Ang issue dito, naghihirap ang [mga] tao,” Cayetano pointed out.
Joining Cayetano and Defensor in the BTS, based on the popular South Korean boyband, are former deputy speakers Reps. LRay Villafuerte (Camarines Sur), Raneo Abu (Batangas), Dan Fernandez (Laguna); former Public Accounts chairman, Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan); and former Good Government and Public Accountability chairman, Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado.
Capiz Rep. Fredenil “Fred” Castro, another ex-deputy speaker, was supposed to join the much-hyped “BTS launch” but failed to make it.
Responding to BTS sa Kongreso, allies of Velasco led by senior Deputy Deputy Speaker and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador “Doy” Leachon hit the group for its alleged cheap publicity stunt and political gimmickry after accusing the present House leadership of being “lazy” and “trapo” or traditional politician.
“This is an obvious publicity stunt and gimmickry from someone who’s trying to revive his political career, which suffered a major setback after an overwhelming majority of House members ousted him from the top House post three months ago,” Leachon said.
Leachon criticized Cayetano for his “baseless and unfair tirades” against Velasco and his brand of leadership.