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PNoy allies get 30 House posts

Horse-trading begins early to ensure budget OK — Gonzales Horse trading has begun well before the July 22 opening of the 16th Congress as the ruling Liberal Party is setting its sights on 30 of the 69 committees up for grabs and allocating a fewer number of seats to its election allies. House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said under a sharing scheme based on the ratio of the number of seats won by each party, the National People’s Coalition would get leadership of 13 committees, the National Unity Party, nine; and the Nacionalista Party, two. Lakas-CMD, being an opposition party, would receive none, but as is the practice, the minority bloc will likely be given the House committee on ethics. Gonzales said the horse trading in committee chairmanships was being done this early to avoid delays in the passage of the administration’s P2.268 trillion national budget for 2014. It was also meant to speed the approval of Palace-backed economic bills. Gonzales said the thrust of the House, in line with the Palace, would be economic bills that need time for deliberations, and so the House wanted to discharge the budget concerns as soon as possible. He said the House leaders target “marathon deliberations” on the economic bills so that these can be approved within the first year of the 16th Congress. “The Palace has more than one month to prepare economic measures,” Gonzales said, saying meetings have already been drawn up with the National Economic and Development Authority, the Finance and Trade and Industry departments and other agencies to come up with a budget draft that would be part of President Benigno Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address. Gonzales told radio dzBB that House leaders want to file the economic bills by June 30. Gonzales also said the economic bills should be passed well before the presidential elections of 2016. “The first two regular sessions should be fruitful,” Gonzales said, noting that the third regular session would be influenced by election-year politics. In the last election, the LP won 110 seats; the NPC had 43; NUP, 24; and the NP, 20. The Lakas-CMD won 15 seats. “This early, we are already coordinating with various parties such as the NPC, NUP and NP. We are asking them that by first week or end of first week of July, they could already submit the membership in each committee so that when we reelect Speaker (Feliciano) Belmonte (Jr.), we can begin organizing the House,” Gonzales said. The first to be elected would be the chairman of the House committee on appropriations, which deliberates on the budget. The chairman would come from the LP, Gonzales said. Apart from the Speaker and the committee chairmanship, the House would also elect all six House deputy speakers and the Minority Leader, who were among those who graduated in the 15th Congress because either their terms had ended or they lost their reelection bid. Gonzales said there is no doubt that Belmonte will retain his post. The minority leadership would then be a toss-up between Romualdez and San Juan City Rep.-elect Ronaldo Zamora. He said the House leadership could work well with either lawmaker. “Anyone of them would be fine. I don’t see either of them as an obstructionist minority,” said Gonzales, who himself needs to be reelected by the plenary to remain Majority Leader. A greater number of the party-list groups would be aligning with the majority coalition and be given committee chairmanships, he said. There are 58 available seats for the party-list bloc in the House. With the Senate now firmly in Liberal hands, Gonzales said, the administration ought to be able to push through its economic bills faster. Senator Franklin Drilon, campaign manager of the Liberals during the last election, is the tipped favorite to become Senate President after Senator Juan Ponce Enrile resigned from the post last week.
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