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A four-cornered fight for speakership looms in the 17th Congress following the landslide victory of Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in Monday’s presidential election.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of the Liberal Party has extended the hand of reconciliation to Duterte, promising to form a “super majority” to support the presumptive president’s legislative priorities and shield him from any impeachment bid.
“Under me they will be supportive of Digong’s programs and can form the nucleus of his super majority,” said Belmonte, now on his third and final term at the House.
Belmonte’s leadership will be challenged by Davao del Sur Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez of PDP –Laban, Davao City Rep. Carlo Nograles of the National Unity Party (NUP) and Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez.
Alvarez, PDP-Laban secretary general, is a returning congressman, having beaten former Rep. Arrel Olanio. He served under former President Fidel V. Ramos as secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC).
PDP-Laban has started discussions with winning partylist groups for a coalition that might give them leadership of the majority bloc.
Meanwhile, NUP executive director Reginald Velasco disclosed that the party will nominate Nograles for speakership.
Velasco revealed that the party is assured of at least 30 congressional seats.
“It would be unwise for Duterte to give LP control of both Houses. It’s like putting nail to seal his coffin,” said Velasco.
The NUP official said Nograles, son of former Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr., enjoys the trust and confidence of Duterte, being a nephew of the next president.
The name of Benitez has also been floated as a darkhorse in the speakership race.
Benitez, who campaigned for presidential bet Sen. Grace Poe, reportedly enjoys the backing of his former political party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and heads the powerful Visayan bloc.
LP congressmen threw their support to Belmonte’s bid.
“Time to move on. I salute Speaker Belmonte for initiating this brilliant idea of healing the wounds caused by the election,” said Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez who ran and won as mayor of Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, who won another term of office, said: “We should unite behind the interest of the Filipino people and rally behind the duly elected authorities.”
“The spirited debates during he campaign should be now be part of the dustbin of history,” he added.
Re-electionist Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo predicted majority support for Belmonte’s move to form a coalition for national unity.
“A coalition is necessary to realize the legislative agenda of the new president. The president being elected by broad segment of society should necessitate a strong support from Congress to come into fruition his commitment to the people to bring immediate change,” said Castelo.
However, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco supports the call for national unity, but does not necessarily require a coalition to be achieved.
NPC spokesman Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga said: “We would support any call for unity. It would be of interest for us to meet and discuss the parameters of such coalition agreement.” (BEN ROSARIO)