Untainted by graft, Romualdez eyed as next House Speaker

THE impressive and untainted track record of former Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez as public servant will work to his advantage in his bid to become the Speaker of the incoming 18th Congress.

“Mabuting tao si Martin. He has no corruption issue and that will work to his advantage. Wala tayong nabalitaan diyan kay Martin na hindi maganda,” said Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, a member of the House oppositionist Magnificent 7 after Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, chairperson of the Hugpong Ng Pagbabago (HNP), endorsed Romualdez as the next Speaker.

House Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, who chairs the House Committee on Public accounts, said the endorsement of Mayor Sara of Romualdez will steer a more productive and responsive House of Representatives supportive of the President’s legislative agenda.

“We need a competent and honest man as Speaker like Congressman Romualdez. He has good public relations and no derogatory issue. Congress will be very interesting with his leadership. He is good, responsible, very bright and intelligent,” said Suarez on Romualdez who served as the head of the House independent bloc of the previous 16th Congress.

Erice and House senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza are split whether President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte or Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte has the final say in choosing the Speaker of the incoming 18th Congress.

“I think the speakership will really be decided by the President after the election,” said Erice. Atienza said he expects the President’s choice to face a strong challenge in case her daughter, who maneuvered the spectacular ouster of former Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, picks another candidate.

“Malaki ang impact ng endorsement ni Sarah. No doubt, whoever gets the endorsement will have a big edge,” Atienza said.

Atienza, who also admired another candidate in the speakership race — Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco — shared the observation of Suarez that Romualdez has a clean record in public service.

“Walang corruption and derogatory record, he was a very effective and independent opposition leader,” said Atienza on Romualdez, President of both the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).

“Surely corruption issue will be very important especially under the Duterte administration. We should elect a Speaker untainted with corruption,” said Atienza, adding that Romualdez and Velasco are both young and equally qualified to be the next Speaker.

Earlier, former Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, Jr. cited Romualdez’s good leadership qualities being his constructive critic as independent bloc leader.

“During my speakership, he headed the independent minority group yet proved to be supportive and helped me in pushing important measures,” said Belmonte.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said the speakership race will be an interesting battle as he heaped praises on Romualdez.

“He is a good and brilliant lawyer who never lost a case. He is also fair and a charming gentleman,” said Albano.

Also joining the speakership race are Alvarez, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, former Vice President Jejomar Binay, San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, Cavite Rep. Alex Advincula, Cavite Rep. Bambol Tolentino, Malabon Rep. Ricky Sandoval, and Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres.

Romualdez, a lawyer, earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and studied law at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City.

He holds a Certificate for Special Studies in Administration and Management from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass, USA.

During his stint as congressman of his district in Leyte, he supported the massive investments in infrastructure that spurred progress and development.

He championed small businesses and industries in his district and the plight of disadvantaged and vulnerable sectors of society, PWDs, senior citizens, the sickly and the poor.

One of his benchmark legislations during the 16th Congress was the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 1039, a law exempting persons with disabilities (PWDs) from paying value-added tax on certain goods and services.

This was signed into law on March 23, 2016 and is now known as Republic Act (RA) No. 10754 or an act on expanding the benefits and privileges of people with disabilities.