6 reps from 5 parties vie for Speaker post
MANILA, Philippines — The next Speaker may not necessarily come from the ranks of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), according to Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, another rumored candidate in the looming battle for House leadership.
“It’s not the numbers of a political party that guarantee the election of someone to be Speaker of the House,” said Castro, a stalwart of the National Unity Party, which is allied with the administration.
Castro suggested that though PDP-Laban might still have the most members in the 18th Congress, the majority might end up backing another party due to divergent interests.
“Because while it is true that members of political parties may abide [by] the party stand, some members … also have their own individual commitments,” he told reporters.
So far, two candidates for the post have emerged from PDP-Laban—its secretary general and former Speaker, Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte, and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
Also considered a strong candidate is Representative-elect Martin Romualdez, who is president of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s previous party, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats.
The names of former Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party and outgoing Sen. Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People’s Coalition have also been floated as possible contenders.
The new Speaker will be elected at the opening of the 18th Congress on July 22, the same day that President Duterte delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address.
The opposition Makabayan bloc said it expected the leadership of the minority in the 18th Congress to again belong to an administration-backed “company union.”
“You are already aware of how things are in the House of Representatives; what is called the ‘minority’ is just a company union,” said Rep. Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers party list group.
At a press briefing, Tinio said he expected the status quo to continue in the 18th Congress.
The official minority bloc in the current Congress has been criticized for being composed of lawmakers allied with the Duterte administration, who often toe the government’s line on priority legislation.
There are currently two independent opposition factions in the House: the Makabayan bloc and the Liberal Party-led “Magnificent 7” group.
The Makabayan bloc is composed of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, Anakpawis and Kabataan party list groups.
It is likely to lose the Anakpawis and the Kabataan party list seats, since the two groups had failed to muster enough votes in last week’s midterm elections.
Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao said his group had been “disenfranchised” as a result of a vilification campaign by the government.
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