KEY leaders of political parties and influential blocs in the incoming 18th Congress assembled in Quezon City yesterday to commit themselves to the speakership bid of Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez and to the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte.
The assembly held at SEDA Hotel Vertis North, according to House Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil “Fred” Castro, was the first in a series of caucuses that the coalition aims to hold to unite the political parties and other blocs in Congress toward the early passage of the President’s priority bills.
“We have decided to cross party lines and band together to press for the speedy congressional approval of the President’s priority bills. A single party cannot do it alone. We need the support of everybody so Congress can help realize the President’s vision for the country,” said Castro, who is also president of the National Unity Party (NUP).
“This is just the beginning, possibly the spark needed to unite the 18th Congress. In the coming days and weeks, other congressmen who already signed the manifesto of support for our Speaker, Cong. Martin, will also come out in the open and join us in our gatherings. It is difficult to schedule a caucus of more than 180 congressmen in a single day,” Castro added.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda for his part explained that the key leaders of the political parties and other blocs decided to hold the assembly so they can all have a clear picture of the reforms that Romualdez plans to implement in the 18th Congress as Speaker.
“We are 100 percent behind Cong. Martin as Speaker. We need to get his views on how to make the next Congress more effective in legislating the laws that are beneficial to our countrymen,” said Salceda, who is from the ruling PDP-Laban.
Anakalusugan party-list Representative-elect Mike Defensor said although the party list coalition has yet to name its chosen candidate for Speaker, the majority of his colleagues have already signed the manifesto of support for Romualdez.
“Members of the party-list coalition agreed to vote as a bloc. Majority, however, that I have spoken to has already indicated their preference for Cong. Martin as Speaker pending the possible endorsement of President Duterte,” said Defensor.
“If the election for Speaker will be held today, Cong. Martin, definitely has the numbers,” he added.
Romualdez, for his part, thanked the multi-party coalition for their words of inspiration and encouragement for his speakership bid, saying he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support” from his colleagues in Congress.
“I am fortunate to be surrounded by peers who served as an inspiration and encouragement in the many years that I served in Congress. It is an honor to represent them as one of their leaders in the 18th Congress,” said Romualdez, president of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
Romualdez, head of the House Independent Bloc in the previous 16th Congress, noted that a multi-party coalition in the 18th Congress may be the key needed to unlock the potentials of the legislative department as a “real working partner” of President Duterte and the Executive department.
“Ours is a herculean task. We have to live up to the expectation of President Duterte and of our people. With the help of every member of the 18th Congress, I am confident that we can help deliver the promises of President Duterte to our people,” the Leyte solon said.