MANILA -- Leyte Rep.-elect Martin Romualdez on Wednesday led a multi-party caucus in an effort to build a coalition to advance the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte in the incoming 18th Congress.
Romualdez, one of the contenders in the Speakership race, said the event is the first in a series of caucuses that the coalition aims to hold leading to Duterte's fourth State of the Nation Address.
The caucuses aim to unite the political parties and other blocs in Congress toward the early passage of the President's priority bills.
This is a caucus, the first of many, that we will be holding in our efforts to coalition build to further the legislative agenda of President Duterte, Romualdez said, as he noted that a multi-party coalition may be the key needed to unlock the potentials of the legislative department as a real working partner of the President and the Executive department.
We are happy that those present took time to join the caucus to hear each and everyone on how we would do it together. We want to speak to all of you and hear from all of you, he told the gathering of 40 lawmakers representing a cross-section of the House membership.
Among those present were leaders of the National Unity Party (NUP), Nacionalista Party (NP), Liberal Party (LP), Partylist coalition, Lakas-CMD, and several members of the ruling PDP-Laban.
Romualdez said the most important legislative measure to be taken up in the assembly, as well as in succeeding caucuses, is the 2020 national budget.
Besides ensuring that next year's budget would be enacted on time, he said they will also ensure that the budget will be as fair and as equitable as the President mandates.
He also laid down the legislative agenda of the House in the incoming Congress, which include several priority measures that were taken up in the Third Regular session of the 17th Congress but were not passed due to lack of time.
The president of Lakas-CMD cited the Coco Levy Act, National Land Use Act, the Department of Disaster and Resilience, the TRABAHO Bill (TRAIN 2), Excise Tax on Alcohol Products, reforms on real property valuation, Federalism, and mandatory Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) as among the priority agenda of the House of Representatives.
These are the items that we want to revisit and move forward with, along with the separate and specific advocacies of each lawmaker. We only have very few weeks left, and we want to hit the ground running, Romualdez said.
Meanwhile, Romualdez said regardless of who will sit as Speaker, Congress should be united in working for the people of the Philippines.
We are meeting here to show how dedicated and committed the congressmen of the 18th Congress are in serving the Filipino people. We will be united and one for the Filipino people, he said.
This is our desire, this is our vision, that the 18th Congress will be a revitalized, more energized, more enlightened and a more inspired Congress for the people of the Philippines under the leadership of President Duterte, Romualdez said.
Romualdez gets vital support from congressional leaders
Meanwhile, the key leaders of political parties and influential blocs in the House of Representatives committed their full support to the Speakership bid of Romualdez.
House Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro said they have decided to cross party lines and band together to press for the speedy congressional approval of the President's priority bills.
The president of the NUP pointed out that a single party cannot do it alone.
We need the support of everybody so Congress can help realize the President's vision for the country, he said.
This is just the beginning, possibly the spark needed to unite the 18th Congress. In the coming days and weeks, other congressmen who already signed the manifesto of support for our Speaker, Cong. Martin, will also come out in the open and join us in our gatherings, Castro said.
At present, the Capiz lawmaker said at least 180 House members have already signed the manifesto of support for Romualdez.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, on the other hand, said the key leaders of the political parties and other blocs decided to hold the assembly so they can all have a clear picture of the reforms that Romualdez plans to implement in the 18th Congress as Speaker.
We are 100 percent behind Cong. Martin as Speaker. We need to get his views on how to make the next Congress more effective in legislating the laws that are beneficial to our countrymen, said Salceda, who is from the ruling PDP-Laban.
Despite pronouncements from the ruling party that members who will not support their candidate for Speaker -- Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco -- will be sanctioned, the Albay lawmaker bared that a lot of their party-mates have expressed support for Romualdez.
We have 40 lawmakers from the PDP-Laban supporting Cong. Romualdez as Speaker, Salceda said.
Anak Kalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor said the majority of his colleagues in the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI) have already signed the manifesto of support for Romualdez.
Members of the party list coalition agreed to vote as a bloc. The majority, however, that I have spoken to has already indicated their preference for Cong. Martin as Speaker. If the election for Speaker will be held today, Cong. Martin, definitely has the numbers, Defensor said.
Romualdez thanks peers for overwhelming support
Romualdez thanked the multi-party coalition for their words of inspiration and encouragement for his Speakership bid, saying he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from his colleagues in Congress.
I am fortunate to be surrounded by peers who served as an inspiration and encouragement in the many years that I served in Congress. It is an honor to represent them as one of their leaders in the 18th Congress, the president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) said.
Ours is a herculean task. We have to live up to the expectation of President Duterte and of our people. With the help of every member of the 18th Congress, I am confident that we can help deliver the promises of President Duterte to our people, Romualdez said.
Source: Philippines News Agency