A leader of the House of Representatives on Friday said Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez has the edge over the other candidates for the speakership.
“Romualdez, a lawyer, has the experience and leadership advantage compared to the other speaker-wannabes and the most acceptable to the overwhelming majority of their colleagues,” ANAC-IP Party-List Rep. Jose Panganiban Jr., chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food, said.
Panganiban said Romualdez, president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), “has the edge in leadership qualities, experience, and goodwill among House members” compared to the other candidates for the post.
Romualdez, head of the House independent bloc in the 16th Congress, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Cornell University, and a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management from Harvard University.
He also earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines.
Panganiban, however, said many of his colleagues would choose whoever President Rodrigo Duterte picks, even if the candidate is perceived to be weak.
“The biggest trump card is closeness to the President, unfortunately,” Panganiban said.
“The congressmen will always abide even of the pick of the President is the weakest choice,” he added.
Well-placed sources bared that President Duterte met three candidates—Romualdez, Reps. Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque and Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig—in Japan where they discussed the speakership race, but did not give a commitment to any of them.
This was consistent with President Duterte’s speech before his Japan trip that he will not meddle in the speakership fight.
Earlier, House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said Romualdez is a sure winner in the speakership race following the declaration of President Duterte that he will let lawmakers elect their own leader.
Earlier, Suarez said a manifesto of support for Romualdez has already garnered more than the 153 names needed to win the speakership race.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, meanwhile, said Romualdez would be able to push President Duterte’s priority economic measures.
“Reppresentative Romualdez as speaker is good for the economy,” said Salceda, who is senior vice chairman of the House committee on ways and means.
Salceda said Romualdez’s knowledge and experience in the financial markets and the field of economics would help expedite the enactment into laws of President Duterte’s economic reform agenda.
Meanwhile, 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero, president of the 54-member Party-list Coalition in the House said the race for the speakership is wide open, since the President has not endorsed anyone.
“With the free for all, the party-list bloc with about 55 voting members might be the swing vote for choosing the speaker in the House,” Romero said in an interview on the ANC news channel.
“Everyone is claiming they are close to the President... If there is a presidential endorsement, that would be the biggest criteria now,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.