MANILA, Philippines -- With President Macapagal-Arroyo apparently uninterested in becoming House Speaker, three Lakas-Kampi-CMD party mates have declared an interest in vying for the post, party officials said on Wednesday.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez and Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. ?signified their intention? at a party caucus in Malacañang on Tuesday night, said Prospero Pichay, the party?s vice president for membership and accreditation and Ms Arroyo?s political adviser.
But the party should also not count out Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, who gave Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia a stiff fight for the post in the 14th Congress.
It was the ruling party?s second caucus in less than a week, and it included around 80 lawmakers from Lakas-Kampi-CMD and its coalition partners, the Nationalist People?s Coalition, the Nacionalista Party and several party-list groups.
In the first caucus last Thursday, Ms Arroyo retook the chairmanship of the party from Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa.
But she reportedly rejected calls for her to run for Speaker, saying she preferred a role akin to that played by India?s Sonia Gandhi who steered her Congress Party to victory in 2004 but refused the premiership.
Pichay said the speakership was not a priority of Ms Arroyo, who won the Congress seat representing the second district of Pampanga in the May 10 elections.
?She can live without it,?? he told reporters on Wednesday.
He said Ms Arroyo would rather be "a statesman and give way?? to any of the three aspirants.
But although she was ?quite stubborn?? about not wanting to run, Pichay said it would not be impossible to make her to change her mind.
?The three lawmakers [Lagman, Suarez and Barzaga] are willing to give way once she changes her mind,?? he said.
Party secretary general Raymundo Roquero said Ms Arroyo was ?serious?? about not wanting to contest the speakership.
Ruling party officials said a nominating committee would screen the candidates for Speaker and then submit their names to the board for consideration in another caucus.
?We have more than enough to elect the Speaker,?? Roquero said by phone, noting that a candidate would need 144 votes to win in a projected 286-member chamber.
Apart from the 107 party members who won in the congressional races last May 10, the party is counting on the support of at least 20 lawmakers from NP, NPC and Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, and more than 20 party-list representatives.
Asked if the Lakas-Kampi was open to a coalition with Liberal Party of presumptive president-elect Sen. Benigno Aquino III, Pichay said: ?If they are willing to choose our Speaker, we will be more than willing.??
He said Lakas-Kampi-CMD lawmakers would not block the legislative agenda of the incoming administration, but would play the role of fiscalizers.
In an interview, Lagman confirmed that he would be willing to run for speaker against Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr.of the LP-led Conscience and Reform (Core) coalition, known to be backed by Aquino.
?The party has no decision yet but I am being considered by the party,? said Lagman.
He said that while it has been Ms Arroyo?s position not to run for Speaker, ?we will have to wait for her official announcement. Just in case she does not run, I am willing to run and serve.?
Meanwhile, LP campaign manager Florencio Abad reiterated on Wednesday the party?s confidence of having Belmonte as the next House speaker.
Abad saw no roadblocks that could hinder a Belmonte campaign.
?By our last assessment, we do not see any major problem preventing the Liberal Party from securing the minimum number of votes to elect a speaker,? Abad said in a statement.
Although the LP only has 45 elected representatives, he said members of other parties have expressed an interest in joining the party of the incoming president.
He said members of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD have also expressed interest in negotiating with the LP.