Officials and members of ruling party PDP-Laban on Thursday affirmed their support for House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin G. Romualdez to be elected Speaker in the next Congress.
Led by PDP-Laban President and Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the group made their affirmation for Romualdez during a lunch meeting at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel hosted by San Jose del Monte City Rep. Rida Robes.
The affirmation followed the statement made last Saturday by PDP-Laban that the party was supporting Romualdez for the speakership.
In announcing his party’s support for Romualdez, Cusi said: “Our 62 newly elected PDP Laban representatives are throwing their full support behind Romualdez because we believe in his capacity to unite and lead Congress for the passage of significant laws and initiatives for the benefit of the Filipino people.”
He said the Majority Leader’s track record “speaks for itself” as Cusi described him as “one of the most-hardworking” lawmakers.
In the Senate, newly-elected Sen. Raffy Tulfo assured he will maintain his independence in the chamber although he will join the majority bloc.
Since he ran as an independent during the campaign and won as such, Tulfo stressed he will maintain his impartiality as a neophyte senator, while honoring the traditional and constitutional independence of the Senate in the 19th Congress.
“My independent stance is consistent with the enduring character of the Senate as a democratic institution separate and distinct from the House of Representatives, the Presidency, the Judiciary, and the other constitutional bodies,” the popular broadcaster, who was a guest candidate on several presidential slates, added.
Meanwhile, the House leader thanked PDP-Laban members for their support.
“I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to my colleagues.
Your gesture today (Thursday) will strengthen our efforts to unify the House and the people we all represent behind the incoming administration of presumptive President Bongbong Marcos,” Romualdez said.
The Leyte solon said the next Congress will prioritize the passage of Marcos Jr.’s legislative agenda.
“More importantly, we are trying to ensure that the priority legislation of the incoming President, President-elect BBM will be aided and supported with measures that will allow him to pursue his agenda for the people,” Romualdez told reporters in an ambush interview.
Romualdez said the next Congress is eyeing the passage of Bayanihan-type of legislation and the resetting of the barangay elections scheduled in December to save P8 billion that can be used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was [presumptive] President Marcos’ initials, BBM or Bayan Bangon Muli bill stimulus package that will allow the incoming President to harness the resources available during the closing period of 2022 and [pass] measures that are needed for the pandemic, hopefully endemic stage of this COVID,” Romualdez said.
“It was a complaint of the barangay chairpersons that we met from the Liga ng mga Barangay, so we shall consider that (resetting of barangay polls),” he added.
Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said the proposed Bayan Bangon Muli stimulus bill will allow Marcos Jr. to adjust the budget that he will inherit from the Duterte administration.
The bill “will give the (next) President special powers, as the budget he is inheriting for the rest of the year is already set in stone, so we’ll give greater flexibility in utilizing it to make adjustments or reenactments,” Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, told reporters.
Under the Duterte administration, Congress passed Bayanihan 1 and 2 to allow the President to use the available funds of the government to address the health pandemic.
Romualdez added that the 18th Congress still has a pending task to fulfill, which is to canvass and proclaim the winning President and Vice President from the May 9 elections.
The Leyte lawmaker has been meeting with members of the incoming House members. On Tuesday, he met with Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, who was reelected representative of the lone district of Marinduque, and with former President and returning Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Wednesday.
Velasco and Arroyo declared their support for Romualdez, as his endorsers now comprise an overwhelming majority in the incoming House of Representatives.
Cusi cited Romualdez’s role in the passage of important laws like Bayanihan 1 and 2 and COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act, which are responses to the health crisis; and Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act and amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Public Service Act, which all aim to bring in more foreign investments.
While Tulfo will cast his lot with the Senate majority, he will also honor the independent mandate “of the (23.1) million voters who sent me to the Senate because of my independent platform of government.”
He said the issues he had staked on his public service programs “have no political boundaries. In fact, they are cross-cutting priorities of the wide cross-section of our society.”
About legislative work, Tulfo had looked at the remaining items on the legislative agenda of the 18th Congress.
“I saw several worthy bills which have gone through hundreds, thousands of hours of work. It would be a pity if those worthy bills will just go straight to the archives of Congress just because the 18th Congress ends,” he said, noting the current Congress still has some session days left.
“But clearly, most of these worthy bills will not be approved for lack of material time. By worthy, I mean those bills which either chamber already approved at committee level, at second reading, at third reading, and pending in the bicameral conference committee,” said Tulfo.
“I will therefore ask the current Senate leadership and my colleagues in the incoming 19th Congress to find ways to preserve the bills by keeping them alive, returning them to the committees they came from so that the members of the 19th Congress can build upon those bills with inputs from the new Members of Congress. Perhaps a few changes to the Rules of both chambers can make this happen,” he added. With Macon Ramos-Araneta