AS expected, Sen. Franklin Drilon was elected Senate President and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. House Speaker as the 16th Congress opened Monday.
Drilon won by a 17-6 vote, while Belmonte garnered 245 votes.
It was Drilon’s second time to be Senate President, and the third for Belmonte.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara nominated Drilon for the post after acting majority leader Gregorio Honasan moved to open the Senate election.
Neophyte Senator Nancy Binay nominated Enrile for the top Senate, saying he is a worthy leader.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada seconded Enrile’s nomination.
As part of tradition, Drilon voted for Enrile while Enrile voted for Drilon. The former Senate chief automatically became the Minority Leader.
Belmonte, on the other hand, served as the Speaker of the House in the 11th and 15th Congress and was cited for shepherding the 15th Congress towards making game-changing legislations such as the reproductive health law, sin tax law, and the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
”We need a Speaker who can meet the challenge, is dynamic, can lead by example, can make sacrifices, who asks questions, and can say no when necessary,” Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said in his nomination speech for Belmonte.
San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, is the new Minority Leader after narrowly defeating Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Each got a vote of 18 and 16, respectively.
Zamora once served as the Executive Secretary of former President Joseph Estrada. He won over Romualdez when he got the backing of the seven-strong Makabayan bloc, which groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Anakpawis on Saturday.
Following his victory, Belmonte said he would continue to bat for tight rules in public spending in a bid to guarantee government efficiency.
“A strict obedience to a much tightened guidelines in the use of public resources is the strongest guarantee of efficiency, ensuring that each peso spent generates exponential returns for our people. We must nurture a legal ethos that mandates prudence in spending, as well as transparency and accountability in the use of public funds, especially in the use of Priority Development Assistance Funds or PDAF,” Belmonte, a lawyer, pointed out.
Each member of the House receives P70 million worth of PDAF every year. Of this amount, P35 million is allotted for soft projects such as education and health/hospital assistance. The remaining P35 million is for hard projects such as roads, bridges and classrooms.
Belmonte has earlier urged his colleagues who represent districts to spend their PDAF solely on the people of the district they represent, considering that the Department of Budget and Management allows a district representative to spend his PDAF beyond his district, provided that the representative of the recipient district is amenable to it.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda welcomed the election of Drilon and expressed confidence that Malacanang will have a good working relationship with the Legislative on various advocacies.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma likewise hoped that Congress would pass most of the government’s priority bills.
”We are optimistic that priority bills will garner support and be assured of passage in the 16th Congress,” Coloma stressed.
Also on Monday, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said it sees a bad sign in the election and re-election, respectively, of Drilon and Belmonte.
CBCP Secretary General Msgr. Joselito Asis said there is a huge chance that the divorce,
euthanasia, abortion, total reproductive health and homosexuality (DEATH) bills will be prioritized under the present administration.
“Hopefully, the bills they will push for are not anti-life bills because if there will be any, it will surely be hastened,” the CBCP official explained.
The CBCP believes that the present administration is eager to push the “DEATH” bills.
However, Asis expressed hope that their allied legislators will remain committed to fight anti-life measures.