MANILA, Philippines? (UPDATE) As expected, Quezon City Representative Feliciano ?Sonny? Belmonte Jr. was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives at the opening of the 15th session of Congress Monday.
A total of 227 lawmakers voted for Belmonte, clinching the dominance of the Liberal Party (LP) in the chamber.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman of Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats got 29 votes and automatically became the minority leader.
Following traditions in the chamber where candidates for speakers do not vote for themselves, Belmonte cast his vote for his ?friend, Edcel Lagman.?
Lagman said that ?consistent with tradition, this representation for the first district of Albay votes for the honorable Feliciano Belmonte.?
Later, Representatives Lorenzo Tanada III, Raul Daza, Pablo Garcia, Arnulfo Fuetebella, Jesus Crispin Remulla and Ma. Isabel Climaco were elected deputy speakers.
Kalinga partylist Representative Abigail Ferriol, the youngest member of the chamber, administered Belmonte?s oath of office.
The LP is in coalition with the Nacionalista Party (NP), Nationalist People?s Coalition, (NPC), Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), and several party-list groups.
A total of 258 members were present in the session that opened at 10 a.m.
Representatives Ronald Singson of Ilocos Sur and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga were absent. Singson is detained in Hong Kong on drug trafficking charges while Arroyo is also in Hong Kong to accompany her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo for a medical check-up.
Cagayan Representative Florencio Vargas passed away over the weekend.
Nominating Belmonte, Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya, an LP stalwart, said the Quezon City lawmaker is a leader capable of uniting the chamber and turning it around on the right track.
Close to a dozen lawmakers, both LP loyalists and new members who came from the former administration party Lakas-Kampi-CMD seconded the nomination. Among them were Representatives Bernadette Herrera (Bagong Henerasyon party list), Arnulfo Fuentebella (Camarines Sur), Rolando Andaya Jr. (Camarines Sur), Jesus Crispin Remulla (Cavite), and Vicente Crisologo (Quezon City).
Herrera called Belmonte a ?miracle man? who can use his vast experience as Quezon City mayor to address the needed legislative agenda of the country.
Lagman was nominated by Representative Rodolfo Albano (Isabela), Danilo Suarez (Quezon), Augusto Syjuco (Iloilo)
Suarez said Lagman has ?commitment, competence, and consistency,? and a champion of the cause for social justice as shown how he allocated funds for hospital and other social service programs.
Lagman, he said, is a man of ?less politics, more principle; less propaganda, more accomplishments; less promises.?