• Belmonte to seek Speakership again

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    Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of the Liberal Party will contest the Speakership of the House of Representatives in the next Congress even after the defeat of LP standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd in the May 9 elections.

    Belmonte, a veteran lawmaker, was Speaker in 2001 to 2004.

    He again became the House leader in 2010 and has since held the post.

    “If only to keep them united and to be their rallying point, I need to be a candidate for Speaker… unless my partymates will choose another person, which is okay with me,” Belmonte said on Tuesday.

    The 17th Congress is expected to welcome 292 members, including 234 legislative district representatives and 59 party-list lawmakers.

    As of Tuesday, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of PDP-Laban is way ahead of his closest rival Roxas in the presidential race by six million votes with over 90 percent of election returns already counted.

    PDP-Laban, however, has only one member who won a congressional seat In the 2016 polls: Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez of Davao del Norte.

    Reelected Marikina City (Metro Manila) Rep. Romero Quimbo of the LP, the current chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, expressed confidence that Belmonte will earn a fourth term as Speaker because of the latter’s capacity to unite different parties.

    “The laws that the would-be President Duterte wants to push are very dramatic and thus require a consensus builder. Speaker Belmonte has the track record and political gravitas to ensure expeditious passage of said measures,” Quimbo said in a text message.

    Among the laws that Duterte wants passed is the restoration of the death penalty and amending the 1987 Philippine Constitution to institute federalism.

    “Look at the laws that he [Belmonte] has managed to pass the last five years. Many have been languishing for several decades. But Speaker Belmonte managed to shepherd them to success,” Quimbo, a lawyer, said.

    He was referring to the Reproductive Health Law, which allows the state to fund contraceptives; the sin tax law, which increased taxes on liquor and cigarettes and the Fair Competition Law, which bans abuse of dominant position such as selling goods to services below cost with the intent of driving competition out of the market or creating barriers to entry and setting prices or other terms of conditions that differ or discriminate unreasonably between customers or sellers of the same goods or services where such customers or sellers are contemporaneously trading on similar terms and conditions, among others.

    These three measures have been pending in Congress for at least two decades before they were passed into law under the Aquino administration.

    The Speakership race is decided by a vote among members of the House of Representatives.

    The one who will end up with the highest number of votes will be named the Speaker, while the second highest vote-getter will be the House Minority Leader.

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