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Cayetano voted as Speaker; Romualdez, majority leader

The threatened fireworks turned out to be a dud Monday after lawmakers voted for President Rodrigo Duterte’s pick to lead the House of Representatives, Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano as Speaker of the 18th Congress.

Cayetano voted as Speaker; Romualdez, majority leader
SO HELP ME GOD. House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez takes his oath of office Monday before Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano at the plenary of the House of Representatives. The oath-taking is witnessed by Tingog Party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez and their children. Ver Noveno
Cayetano received 266 votes while 28 went to Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, who was later named Minority Leader.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez was named majority leader. He took his oath before Cayetano in the company of his wife, Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez of the Tingog Party-list group, and their four children. Romualdez also reiterated his support for the leadership of the new Speaker.

“Under the leadership of Speaker Cayetano, we will work on long-term solutions aimed at addressing the nation’s serious ills like the need to create the Department of Disaster Resilience, poverty, illegal drugs, peace and order concerns, lack of infrastructures and corruption,” Romualdez said.

“As I previously stated, we will work double-time to act on the President’s priority bills, especially those aimed at improving the lives of our people,” he added.

The House vote paved the way for Cayetano’s 15-month term, should he abide by the term-sharing agreement with Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco brokered by Duterte.

Cayetano’s closest rivals for the position―Velasco and Romualdez–both nominated him, while Iloilo Rep. Janet Garin, who is still facing a slew of criminal cases for the Dengvaxia mess during the Aquino II administration where she was the Health secretary, nominated Abante.

Party-list Reps. Lito Atienza of Buhay Party-list and Manuel Cabochan of Magdalo Party-list abstained; while Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman registered a “no” vote.

Before the opening of the session, Cayetano and the President’s son, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte held separate breakfast meetings at the House to ensure the smooth conduct of the proceedings amid speculation that many lawmakers would vote against the President’s brokered term-sharing deal.

But the younger Duterte did not attend the meeting he organized and opted to attend the meeting called by Cayetano―which according to a congressman who asked not to be named was done in compliance with the wish of his father not to create any drama during the election for Speaker or he would boycott his own State of the Nation Address.

During the opening of the First Regular Session of the 18th Congress Monday, Duterte stood on the floor after he was recognized by acting presiding officer, Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu and declared his opposition to the term-sharing agreement.

“I am against any term-sharing agreement,” Duterte said―but voted for Cayetano nonetheless.

Under the term-sharing agreement, Cayetano will sit as Speaker for the first 15 months and Velasco will serve as Speaker in the last 21 months of the 18th Congress.

Liberal Party Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte, Liberal Party secretary general, said the group supported Abante as minority leader.

Abante, being the minority leader, will fulfill the need for a representative democracy “where plurality of voices is respected and encouraged,” Belmonte said.

“We recognize the imperative to uphold the check and balance of power in the legislative branch, thus the need for an independent voice,” Belmonte said.

“A genuine minority that speaks the truth will be a power in safeguarding the country and the people it serves,” he added.

The Makabayan bloc of the House that is composed of left-leaning lawmakers also voted for Abante.

Meanwhile, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice said at least seven congressmen from their party would join the majority; while Lagman said he would remain with the independent opposition.

Elected as Deputy Speakers were Paolo Duterte, South Cotabato Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez, Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero, Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, Abono party-list Rep. Conrad Estrella III, Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr., Antipolo Rep. Roberto Puno, Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Eduardo Villanueva, Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymond Villafuerte Jr.

Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla was named deputy majority leader.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab was appointed as the chairman of the powerful House committee on appropriations, while Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino was appointed chairman of the House committee on accounts.

Cayetano said the House of Representatives under his leadership will be the partner of the Duterte administration in making the lives of Filipinos better.

Minutes after he was elected Speaker, Cayetano was prayed over by the lawmakers led by former communist leader turned lawmaker, Rep. Eduardo Villanueva of the Cibac party-list group.

Cayetano took his oath before Iloilo Rep. Braeden John Biron, the youngest member of the 18th Congress at 26. Cayetano’s wife Lani, who represents the other district of Taguig-Pateros and other members of his family were at hand for his oath-taking.

Cayetano said the House under his 15-month leadership will pursue legislation that will benefit the people.

The Palace said lawmakers made their “independent choice” and that the President only helped them out with his “formula.”

In a text message, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Palace welcomes the result of the election in the lower chamber, making Cayetano the new Speaker of the 18th Congress.

There were no significant changes in the Senate, which reelected Senator Vicente Sotto III to the Senate presidency.

Senate President Pro-tempore Ralph Recto and Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri were also reelected to their posts, while Senator Franklin Drilon retained his position as Senate minority leader.

Senate Secretary Myra Marie Villarica also retained her post while the new Sergeant-at-Arms is retired M/Gen Edgardo Rene C. Samonte, who replaced retired M/Gen. Jose Balajadia Jr., who resigned from his post before passing away on July 7.

Except for Senator Manny Pacquiao who was still in the United States following a victory with American boxer Keith Thurman in Las Vegas and detained Senator Leila de Lima, all the 22 other senators were present during the Congress opening.

After the election, Sotto immediately took his oath, administered by Senator Panfilo Lacson. Sotto was accompanied by his wife Helen Gamboa and their children Ciara, Gian Carlo, Romina, and Diorella.

In an interview after his oath-taking, the Senate President vowed to maintain or even surpass the public’s trust and confidence in the Senate during the 17th Congress.

Under his leadership, Sotto said the Senate will be “cooperative but independent, balanced, and sincere.”

READ: Dark horse up in Speaker race

READ: Cayetano provokes defiance

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Alan Peter Cayetano , House of Representatives , 18th Congress , Martin Romualdez
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