The 19th Congress opens Monday and will welcome new leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate as lawmakers vow to support the policies of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.—who will deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) before them today—with legislation backed by supermajorities in both chambers.
Most members of the House are expected to overwhelmingly elect Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez as Speaker of the 19th Congress, Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said Sunday.
Meanwhile, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said he sees no rival for the Senate presidency, telling a radio interview Sunday he hoped 20 members of the Senate majority would vote for him.
Barbers lauded Romualdez for his performance record as Majority Leader during the Speakerships of Taguig City Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco.
He said the Leyte lawmaker is known as a consensus-builder who helped stabilize political turmoil among Congress members during the reported Velasco-Cayetano speakership rift in October 2020.
“He was also credited for steering the House minority and majority members in the passage of crucial pieces of legislation such as the Bayanihan 1 and 2 to help alleviate economically the welfare of Filipinos badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
Moreover, Barbers said, Romualdez is an amiable House leader who always consults and listens to colleagues, possesses a positive outlook, and pushes harmony among members of the opposition bloc, thereby gaining or earning trust and respect from most of his fellow lawmakers.
Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. echoed Barbers’ sentiment.
“We will elect him as our speaker. He has the full support of our party, PDP-Laban, and almost all political groups in the House led by his own Lakas-CMD, which he heads as president,” he said of Romualdez.
Following tradition, the House is expected to elect its new speaker on its first day of the session, and vote for its other officers, including some deputy speakers and committee chairmen, and the chamber’s secretary general and sergeant-at-arms.
He said Reginald Velasco, who served as deputy secretary general and spokesman of the National Unity Party, would most likely be elected as House secretary general.
In a meeting with Zubiri, returning Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said he wants to be the watchdog in the Senate and was eying the chairmanship of the Blue Ribbon Committee, which the incoming Senate president has offered to Senator Francis Tolentino.
If he does not get the Blue Ribbon chairmanship, Cayetano added, he may form another bloc in the Senate—although it is unclear how many senators outside of his own sister, Senator Pia Cayetano, would be left outside the majority and minority.
“There will be a third bloc. In the House, there is a majority, there is a minority, there is (an) independent (group),” said the former House speaker.
Cayetano said he and his sister are keeping their options open to be independent.