Romualdez accepts House Majority Leader job

Robie de Guzman   •   July 9, 2019   •   1104

Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez

MANILA, Philippines – House Speakership contender, Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez has backed out of the race and accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s suggestion for him to serve as Majority Leader instead.

Romualdez’s decision was announced by Albay 2nd District Joey Salceda, the designated spokesperson of the legislators who were part of the pro-Romualdez bloc.

“The unanimous decision is to follow the President. No ifs. No buts. No unless. No except. Martin is accepting the position of majority leader,” he said.

Salceda said Romualdez has expressed support for Duterte’s choice for speakers despite garnering 167 signatures from his fellow lawmakers to win the speakership post.

Duterte on Monday announced that his bet for the speakership race of the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress are Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Alan Velasco, who will share the term.

Cayetano would serve as speaker in the first 15 months and will be succeeded by Velasco in the remaining 21 months of the term.

READ: Duterte: Cayetano, Velasco to share term as House Speaker

READ: Cayetano thanks Duterte, rallies colleagues to work for pro-Filipino measures

Salceda said Romualdez is now preparing for his work as the majority leader, which has a term of three years.

“We asked the incoming Majority Leader to develop a robust and dynamic relations with the new Speaker,” he said.

“With the new leadership, the House of Representatives is now ready to deliver efficiently and effectively the national agenda, contribute inputs to the agenda and mobilise national consensus and public support to the Duterte program that would sustain the economic takeoff of the Philippines and spread its fruits leaving no one behind,” he added.

The Party-list Coalition, which consists of 54 party-list representatives, said they plan to vote for Cayetano for now.

“For the 15 months, for now we don’t know what will happen, right?” said 1-PACMAN Party-list Representative Mikee Romero, who serves as the Coalition’s president.

If it pushes through, this would be the first time that the lower chamber of Congress will have two representatives sharing the term as House Speaker.

 As of this time, lawmakers cannot say how will this set up affect the legislative agenda but assured that they won’t be a rubber stamp of the Duterte administration.

“We cannot be stamping pads especially with so many neophytes there. And that’s hard. I think it’s only the late strongman [Ferdinand] Marcos who can do that because of the situation,” said Abono Party-list Representative Conrado Estrella III.

Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) head Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and the members of the Duterte Coalition have so far remained silent on the President’s speakership endorsement. (with details from Grace Casin)

House eyes holding marathon 2020 budget hearings

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is eyeing to hold marathon sessions for the immediate passage of the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.

In a statement, Romualdez said House members have agreed to work day and night from Monday to Friday to ensure that the 2020 General Appropriations Act will be approved by October this year.

“This will give the Senate ample time to scrutinize the budget approved by the House. Hopefully we can have a bicameral conference by early December, then approve the 2020 national budget before the year ends,” he said.

The House Committee on Appropriations, headed by Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab, has started on Thursday the deliberations on the 2020 budget bill with a briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency panel that sets the overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget of the government.

READ: House begins 2020 budget hearings

By September 12, Romualdez said the lower chamber would hold sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, past the regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday.

He added that the plenary session was also moved from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give way to four budget hearings scheduled by the Committee on Appropriations.

“We will hold four budget hearings daily at the committee level almost simultaneously. The hearings are scheduled at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.,” Romualdez said.

“House members may have to shuttle between hearings in order to maximize their participation in the budget deliberations. I am thankful that all the House members agreed to this schedule, which is really a tall order,” he added.

The lawmaker said he had also approved the request of Ungab to allow the holding of committee hearings on the budget even after the plenary proceedings have started at 5 p.m.

“This means that the appropriations committee may hold budget hearings at the committee level simultaneous with the plenary debates on other pending bills and resolutions,” Romualdez said.

“This will ensure that plenary deliberations on other pending issues, such as the vital revenue measures, will push through even as we are working round the clock on the budget bill,” he added.

Under Section 71 of the House Rules, congressmen are deemed present in a House session if they are attending committee meetings authorized by the House committee on rules, which is currently chaired by Romualdez as Majority Leader.

Section 35 of the House Rules, on the other hand, provides that: “Only the committee on rules and such committees to which it has granted permission, may meet while the House is in plenary session, has adjourned, or is in recess.”

Romualdez said that under these rules, the committee on appropriations “may continue with their budget hearings while the House is in plenary session.

“We are invoking the powers of the Majority Leader, as Rules Chairman, to enable the House to tackle simultaneously all the vital measures included in the President’s legislative agenda,” he said.

Duterte to insist arbitral ruling to China: ‘Whether you like it or not’

Marje Pelayo   •   August 22, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte, Pag-asa Island and Chinese President Xi Jinping

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that he will raise the arbitral ruling that favors the Philippines in the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea when he visits China next week.

Duterte is scheduled to fly to China for a working visit from August 28 to September 3.

He will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping and talk about the Hague ruling, the code of conduct, as well as the proposed joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

“So whether you like it or not, would it make you happy or not, angry or otherwise. Sorry, but we have to talk the arbitral ruling, then what we get, if there is a start of the exploration and extraction of whatever there is in the bowels of the earth,” the President said during the inauguration of the 7.5 megawatt peak solar power project in the municipality of Odiongan, Tablas Island in Romblon on Wednesday (August 21).

“The proposal of 60-40 in our favor, would be a good start. I hope it would graduate to something like towards how do we solve the arbitral ruling peacefully,” he added.

The event was the President’s first public engagement after being out of the public eye for more than a week. – MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte to decide on banning online gambling in PH amid China’s call – Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   August 22, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday (August 21) said it is up to President Rodrigo Duterte to decide on the operations of online gambling in the country.

“We have to ask the President on this policy or issue,” Panelo told reporters.

“Hindi natin alam kung may possibility or wala. We have to ask the President,” he added.

On Tuesday (August 20), Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang has called on the Philippine government to ban all forms of online gambling.

“We have also taken note of the Philippine government’s announcement and appreciate it,” he said in a press conference in Beijing.

“We hope the Philippines will go further and ban all online gambling,” he added.

Defense officials expressed concern over proximity of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) near military camps arguing the possibility of Chinese workers becoming spies for Beijing.

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR), meanwhile, has already stopped accepting applications for POGO licenses in the country unless underlying issues are settled.

But Panelo noted that online gambling remains legal under Philippine law.


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