Support growing

Martin Romualdez and Sung Kim
ENDURING FRIENDSHIP. Speakership candidate Leyte First District Rep. Martin Romualdez (left) shakes hands with US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim (right) during the 243rd American Independence Day Anniversary Celebration Wednesday night at Makati Shangrila Hotel in Makati City. Kim assured Romualdez that Philippine-United States ties will remain strong and will continue to prosper. The Philippines celebrates Philippine-American Friendship Day every 4th of July. Photo by Ver Noveno

THE majority leader of the 17th Congress and two former presidential chiefs of staff on Thursday revealed that Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez has more than 160 congressmen working to elect him as Speaker of the 18th Congress.

“I have seen the manifesto for support for Cong. Martin and I saw the signatures of 167 congressmen from different political parties and blocs of the 18th Congress. An initial list of 80 congressmen was shown to the President last month, but the numbers have grown to 167 as of the moment,” Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor told reporters during the Pandesal Forum at Kamuning Bakery Cafe in Quezon City.

“I will not disclose the exact numbers but all I can say, Cong. Martin has the numbers, more than enough and determinative, to catapult him to the Speakership,” said Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, who was reelected to office after serving as Majority Leader of the 17th Congress.

“The signatures not only meant that majority of congressmen will vote for Cong. Martin as Speaker on July 22. These congressmen are committed in gathering signatures for Cong. Martin to ensure his overwhelming victory in the opening of Congress,” said Albay Rep. Joey “Sarte” Salceda, who along with Defensor, had served as Chief of Staff of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The three veteran legislators expressed confidence that President Duterte, upon confirming the final tally of signatures in Romualdez’s favor, will welcome or even endorse the ascension of the Leyte solon to the top House post.

“Right now, the President is sticking to his position not to interfere in the Speakership. But I believe that he will eventually change his position and endorse Cong. Martin as Speaker once he sees the finally tally in the manifesto of support,” said Defensor.

The party-list solon noted that the majority of congressmen prefer Romualdez over the other speakership aspirants due to his vast knowledge and experience as legislator as well as his leadership qualities and long-standing relationship with most legislators.

“There are two main criteria in selecting who will be the next Speaker. First is the competence to lead, the knowledge and experience to steer Congress given the diverse and complicated issues that will confront the House,” Defensor said.

“The second is the ability to lead, to build consensus, having the individual trust and respect of each member based on their individual sensitivities and biases. Based on these criteria, majority of congressmen have chosen Cong. Martin as Speaker,” he added.