Romualdez, allies unfazed by Velasco’s edge on speakership: ‘We will not stop working’
MANILA, Philippines — Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez and his allies remain unfazed by the edge on the speakership fellow contender Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco has, as they vowed to unify the lower chamber and push for the swift passage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s legislative agenda.
Some 38 lawmakers representing various political parties, legislative districts, party-lists, and blocs attended a caucus led by Romualdez where he outlined his priority bills for the 18th Congress. Romualdez did not categorically say that all congressmen present are supporting him, but Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro introduced him as their bet for the position.
“We are confident that we are a strong contender and that we will not stop working even on July 22…” said Romualdez, refusing to divulge if he has the numbers to win the speakership election at the opening of the next Congress on July 22. The meeting was held in a hotel in Quezon City.
Romualdez also said he “respects” the decision of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to endorse Velasco’s speakership bid.
“We’re confident in working together, in unifying the congressmen and congresswomen of the 18th Congress,” he added.
But Anak Kalusugan Representative-elect Mike Defensor and Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda both vouched that Romualdez has the support of many House members.
Defensor said 2/3 of the 54-man party-list coalition where he belongs is backing Romualdez, while Salceda said 40 PDP-Laban solons would vote for the Leyte congressman from the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats.
Salceda said in terms of efficiency and expertise to usher the passage of the legislative agenda of the President, “Martin has the edge.”
Romualdez meanwhile admitted that aside from courting the support of the President, he is also seeking the endorsement of the Chief Executive’s children.
But he said that while Duterte and outgoing Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s choice for the next House leader “weighs heavily,” the final say depends on the “conscience” of the 304-306 members of the chamber.
The lawmakers who attended the meeting came from the National Unity Party, Nacionalista Party, the opposition Liberal Party, PDP-Laban, Lakas-CMD, and the party-list coalition.
Romualdez said his leadership aims to revisit in the 18th Congress the following priority proposed laws of the administration:
1. The coco levy fund
2. National Land Use Act
3. Creation of the Department of Disaster and Resilience
4. Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities (Trabaho) bill
5. Bill on excise tax on alcohol products
6. Reforms on real property valuation
7. Passive Income and Financial intermediary taxation bill
9. Traffic and congestion crisis bill
10. Zero tariffs on fish and meat bill
11. Suspension of the scheduled hike on the fuel excise tax
12. Repeal of the excise tax imposed on kerosene and diesel
13. Bill on the re-imposition of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps
14. Bill providing for a comprehensive neutral regulatory framework (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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