Romualdez drops out of speakership race, accepts Majority Leader job

MANILA, Philippines – Leading speakership contender and Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez has dropped out of the race and has accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s suggestion that he be the Majority Leader instead.

This was announced on Tuesday, July 9, by Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, the designated spokesperson of 72 out of 167 legislators who were part of the pro-Romualdez bloc who met at a hotel in Pasig City.

“Simple lang po 'yong napag-usapan (Our discussion was simple): Number one, with respect to the choice of Speaker, is to follow the President – no ifs, no buts, no excepts, and no unless,” said Salceda. (READ: 3 House speaker bets agree to respect Duterte's choice) 

“And number two, we ask Martin to do his job to develop a robust and dynamic relationship with the Speaker.  And number 3, that they should fight for the agenda of President Duterte,” he added.

The 72 legislators backing Romualdez for Speaker had a meeting a day after Duterte formally threw his support behind a term sharing scheme between two other leading speakership candidates – Taguig City-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.

Under the same agreement, Romualdez would instead become the House Majority Leader. 

It is considered to be a powerful post in the House, as the Majority Leader traditionally whips the votes, negotiates with party leaders, and therefore has the opportunity to establish a strong relationship among House members. 

“The workhorse of the House is actually the Majority Leader. If you want to get things done with respect to the laws or the bills that you pass, if you’re really serious about your priority bills, then I think the Majority Leader is actually a very good position,”said Salceda.

According to Salceda, Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab has been offered to become the chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, which scrutinizes the annual national budget. 

Ungab, however, has yet to personally announce his acceptance of the term sharing deal pushed by Duterte. 

Ungab was backed by no less than the two influential children of the President – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte, who formed the Duterte Coalition to support Ungab’s bid for the highest post in the House.

The Duterte Coalition has so far remained silent on the President’s pronouncement regarding the speakership.  

The pro-Romualdez bloc followed Duterte’s pronouncement just like the 54-strong party-list coalition, which met at the same hotel in Pasig City on Tuesday.

Party-list bloc president and 1-Pacman Representative Michael Romero, however, said they plan to vote for Cayetano “for now.” – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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