MANILA, Philippines?Despite a sprinkling of election losses by her congressional allies, the numbers are trickling in for possibly the speakership for outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has made history as the first Philippine President to get elected to a seat in the House of Representatives.
Two trusted allies?a brother-in-law and the former head of an agency whom she wouldn?t remove amid charges of corruption?have sounded the call for Ms Arroyo to run for Speaker, the fourth highest position in the land.
Ignacio Arroyo, reelected representative of the fifth district of Negros Occidental and brother of Ms Arroyo?s husband Jose Miguel, said he believed Ms Arroyo had the numbers to carry her to the speakership.
A count made by the Inquirer weeks before Election Day showed Ms Arroyo would have at least 150 votes to become Speaker if all her allies won their congressional races. She needs 144 votes, as the House has 287 members, including 57 [20 percent] for party-list groups.
Allies of Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Aquino III, the most likely president-elect, are gathering their forces in the House to install Feliciano Belmonte Jr., the newly elected representative of Quezon City?s fourth district, as Speaker in the 15th Congress.
The 73-year-old Belmonte served as Speaker in the 11th Congress.
At least 80 loyalists
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lakas-Kampi-CMD vice president for Mindanao, Thursday told Senate reporters that Ms Arroyo had the loyalty of at least 80 reelected House members and could also count on the support of some party-list groups.
Zubiri said the administration party fielded about 160 congressional candidates (a few of whom switched to the Liberal Party) during the May 10 polls. ?It will be safe to say that she has 80 congressmen at this point,? he said.
If history is any guide, members of the House who ran under a different party usually switch to the party of the new President to ensure that they receive their pork barrel from Malacañang.
Augusto Syjuco Jr., former head of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) who was charged with plunder for the alleged misuse of his agency?s funds, said Ms Arroyo was most qualified to become Speaker.
Syjuco has been proclaimed representative-elect of Iloilo City, taking over from his wife, Judy, who has completed three terms, the limit set by the Constitution for representatives.
?She (Ms Arroyo) is the most qualified for the post (of Speaker),? said Syjuco, who faced a reprimand as TESDA chief but was spared when the Office of the President overruled a recommendation of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission.
Joselito Banayo, an analyst and former top adviser of plunder convict Joseph Estrada, said in a previous Inquirer article that Ms Arroyo might need to cough out huge sums to become Speaker.
While the going rate was about P1 million to P2 million per congressman, there was no guarantee that those whom Ms Arroyo would buy to become Speaker would stay bought, Banayo said.
One operator who spoke of a previous speakership fight said at least P100 million changed hands during a very recent contest for the House top post.
While officials known to be Ms Arroyo?s lieutenants lost in the congressional races?among them former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and former Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera?dozens of other allies are winning, among them former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, who ran unopposed in Bohol after the only rival who posed a threat to him was appointed by Ms Arroyo to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In Negros Occidental, three of the winners in congressional races?Representative Arroyo of the fifth district, Julio Ledesma IV of the first district and Alfredo Marañon III of the second district?are loyal members of Ms Arroyo?s Lakas-Kampi-CMD. Another winner is Anthony Golez, who served as one of Ms Arroyo?s bevy of spokespersons.
Three other winners?Albee Benitez, third district; Jeffrey Ferrer, fourth district; and Genaro Alvarez, sixth district?are members of the Nationalist People?s Coalition but were expected to vote for Ms Arroyo if she ran for Speaker.
In Iloilo, Janet Garin, representative of the first district and an Arroyo ally, ran unopposed for reelection. Another ally, Arthur Defensor Jr. (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) is also winning in the third district. Ferjenel Biron, incumbent representative and winning his reelection bid in the fourth district, is also an ally.
Ms Arroyo also has two more in Bohol?Yap and Erico Aumentado, a member of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD who is winning in the second district.
In Cebu, five winning congressional candidates are Arroyo allies?Eduardo Gullas, Pablo Garcia, Pablo John Garcia, Benhur Salimbangon and Arturo Radaza. Gullas and Radaza have been proclaimed winners.
In Capiz, Ms Arroyo may count on the vote of Jane Castro, winner of the congressional race in the second district.
Ms Arroyo herself won overwhelmingly in the second district of her province in Pampanga.
Ms Arroyo will replace her son, outgoing Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, who is seeking to take another seat in Congress, as a nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy, a party-list group that claims to represent security guards.
In Pampanga, Ms Arroyo has two reliable allies?Carmelo Lazatin (first district) and Aurelio Gonzales Jr. (third district.) Both were categorical about their support for Ms Arroyo if she runs for Speaker.
Reelected Rep. Anna York Bondoc (fourth district), who is also a frequent travel companion of Ms Arroyo, is expected to support Ms Arroyo?s speakership bid.
Twenty-seven winning representatives belonging to Lakas-Kampi-CMD in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Central Luzon could give Ms Arroyo the needed boost. The three regions have 50 representatives in Congress.
In Mindanao, at least 36 proclaimed, winning and unopposed congressional candidates are considered loyal Arroyo allies.
They are Imelda Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte, first district; Fatima Aliah Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte, second district; Karlo Nograles, Davao City, first district; Thelma Almario, Davao Oriental, second district; Jonathan Yambao, Zamboanga Sibugay, first district; Romeo Jalosjos Jr., Zamboanga Sibugay, second district; Pedro Romualdo, Camiguin; Florencio Flores, Bukidnon, second district.
Jose Ma. Zubiri III, Bukidnon, third district; Simeon Datumanong, Maguindanao, second district; Antonio Lagdameo, Davao del Norte; Ma. Carmen Apsay, Compostela Valley, first district; Rommel Amatong, Compostela Valley, second district; Antonio del Rosario, Davao del Norte.
Franklin Bautista, Davao del Sur; Jesus Sacdalan, North Cotabato, first district; Nancy Catamco, North Cotabato, second district; Emmanuel Pacquiao, Sarangani; Arnulfo Go, Sultan Kudarat.
Jose Aquino, Agusan del Norte, first district; Angelica Amante, Agusan del Norte, second district; Ma. Valentina Plaza, Agusan del Sur, first district; Evelyn Mellana, Agusan del Sur, second district; Ruben Ecleo Jr., Dinagat Island; Francisco Matugas, Surigao del Norte, first district; Guillermo Romarate, Surigao del Norte, second district; Philip Pichay, Surigao del Sur, first district.
Bai Sandra Sema, Maguindanao, first district; Tupay Loong, Sulu, first district; Nur-ana Sahidulla, Sulu, second district; Nur Jaafar, Tawi-Tawi; Seth Jalosjos, Zamboanga del Norte, first district; Ronald Yebes, Zamboanga del Norte, second district; Cesar Jalosjos, Zamboanga del Norte, third district; Aurora Cerilles, Zamboanga del Sur, second district; Jorge Almonte, Misamis Occidental, first district.
Support for Ms Arroyo was also likely to come from Aurora with Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara winning reelection there.
Reelected Bataan Representatives Herminia Roman (Lakas-Kampi-CMD, first district) and Albert Raymond Garcia (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), were proclaimed on Tuesday. They were likely to support Ms Arroyo.
In Zambales, the winning candidates were reelectionist Representatives Maria Milagros Magsaysay (Lakas-Kampi-CMD, first district) and Antonio Diaz (Lapiang Manggagawa), both allies of the outgoing President.
In Southern Luzon, Ms Arroyo has at least one winning ally in each of 15 provinces.
They include Lani Mercado-Revilla, wife of Sen. Ramon ?Bong? Revilla Jr. who was appointed by Ms Arroyo to the board of food giant San Miguel Corp.
Arroyo allies Elpidio Barzaga Jr. and Antonio Ferrer also won in their Cavite districts.
In Laguna, Ms Arroyo could count on one winner?Danilo Ramon Fernandez of the first district.
In Quezon, Ms Arroyo has one loyal ally?Rep. Danilo Suarez, who claimed responsibility for the P1-million dinner of Ms Arroyo and her party in New York during a visit there.
Ms Arroyo ally Rodolfo Valencia won in the congressional race in the first district of Oriental Mindoro.
In Occidental Mindoro, constant Arroyo travel companion Amelita Villarosa won reelection.
In Marinduque, Lord Allan Velasco won in the lone district. He is a son of Supreme Court Justice Presbitero Velasco, an Arroyo appointee.
In Romblon?s lone district, Ms Arroyo can count on proclaimed Rep. Eleandro Madrona.
In Albay, Arroyo ally Edcel Lagman was reelected in the first district.
The numbers are higher for Ms Arroyo in Camarines Sur, where people close to her won?Rolando Andaya, former budget secretary, first district; Diosdado Arroyo, Ms Arroyo?s son, second district; Luis Villafuerte Sr., third district; and Arnulfo Fuentebella, fourth district. Reports from Tonette Orejas, Charlene Cayabyab, Anselmo Roque, Greg Refraccion, Jo Martinez-Clemente, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Cristina Arzadon, Juliet Cataluña, Leoncio Balbin Jr., Gabriel Cardinoza, Yolanda Sotelo, Estanislao Caldez, Villamor Visaya Jr., Delmar Cariño, Vincent Cabreza and Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon; with reports from Fatima Marla Viray, Dhonalyn Agorilla, Charles Keith, Danalyn Lubang, Cliff Harvey Venzon and Jeremy Perey, student volunteers; Carla Gomez, Rachel Arnaiz, Vicente Labro, Joey Gabieta, Elvie Roman-Roa, Jani Arnaiz, Jhunnex Napallacan, Nestor Burgos Jr., David Sinay and Felipe Celino, Inquirer Visayas; and Maricar Cinco, Karen Lapitan, Romulo Ponte, Marrah Erika Lesaba, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Madonna Virola, Gerald Gene Querubin, Mar Arguelles, Jonas Soltes, Juan Escandor Jr. and Joan Brodeth Toling, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and Michael Lim Ubac