MANILA, Philippines – How would Quezon City 4th District Representative Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr like to be remembered as House Speaker?
“I’m very happy about the fact that the 15th and 16th Congress produced a lot of milestone laws. And many of them [are] laws that have been pending since forever,” Belmonte told reporters in response to the question on Tuesday, June 28.
Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez is expected to be elected as the next speaker when the 17th Congress opens its first regular session on July 25.
Based on House records, a total of 116 laws were signed under the 16th Congress. Some of the notables ones are the following:
- An Act Allowing the Full Entry of Foreign Banks
- An Act to Deter Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing
- Sugarcane Industry Development Act
- Youth Entrepreneurship Act
- Microfinance NGOs Act
- Increase in the subsistence allowance for members of the police and the military
- Regulation of naval architecture to ensure the competitiveness of Filipino shipbuilders
- Children’s safety aboard motorcycles
- National Athletes, Coaches, and Trainers Benefits and Incentives Act
- Graphic Health Warning Act
- Laws on increasing bed capacities in public hospitals
The 15th Congress also passed some landmark legislation like the Sin Tax Reform Act, the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, the Kasambahay Law, and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
“We have all sorts of laws,” said Belmonte, who was all smiles on Tuesday morning as he faced some newly-elected representatives of the 17th Congress.
He added that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to suggest a 3-child policy on Filipino families will be supported by the RH Law.
“There should be no quarrel about the statement of President Duterte that he will prefer a family [wth a] maximum of 3 [children] because we have prepared the way. We have an RH Law that provides all sorts of mechanisms, the expenditure of money in order to encourage couples to have a smaller number of children,” he said.
Belmonte also ruled out any possibility of an impeachment case to be filed against Duterte anytime soon.
Belmonte donated a 1955 bronze sculpture of national hero Jose Rizal to the House on Tuesday.
The Rizal bust was originally made by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, while its bronze cast was done by the atelier of National Artist Napoleon Abueva.
“I started coming here in 1992, in the 9th Congress. From that time, I noticed that there’s nothing on this building, there’s nothing to evoke some emotions that this is an important building of the Republic of the Philippines,” recounted Belmonte.
He then bought the Rizal bronze sculpture from the Abueva family for P400,000 and had it placed at the entrance of the Batasang Pambansa.
Belmonte also donated a 42-page original copy of the 1935 Constitution, hardbound in leather, to the House.
He led the Deed of Donation and Acceptance ceremonial signing for the two items past 11 am on Tuesday.
Two hours before that, Belmonte said he went around the congressional offices to thank the staff who served him in the last two congresses.
“Tatlumpung taon na po tayong naglilingkod. Naging president ako ng GSIS (Government Service Insurance System). Nagtrabaho ako sa Department of Finance, mga appointive positions ‘yun atsaka itong elective positions, e alam mo na dito, you hold positions temporarily and you do your best,” shared Belmonte.
(I have been serving for 30 years. I was president of the GSIS. I worked in the Department of Finance. In those appointive positions as well as my elective positions, I know that you hold positions temporarily and you do your best.)
Prior to becoming a legislator, Belmonte served as president of GSIS, the Manila Hotel, and Philippine Airlines. He also became a member of the board of directors of the San Miguel Corporation and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company.
In government, Belmonte became the presidential staff assistant of President Diosdado Macapagal. He gained national prominence when he became the lead prosecutor in the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada.
Belmonte was first elected as Quezon City representative in 1992 and served for 3 terms. He was elected as Quezon City mayor in 2001, again serving 3 consecutive terms until 2010, before making a successful comeback to Congress.
Belmonte said that every time he took on a new responsibility over the years, he would have “100%” concentration on his job.
“So I’m very fortunate na napagdaananan ko ang lahat ng mga karanasang ito (So I’m very fortunate that I was able to go through all these experiences),” he said.
Belmonte, a member of the Liberal Party (LP) has already ceded the speakership to Alvarez of Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
While almost half of the LP members in the House have jumped ship to PDP-Laban, Belmonte said he is still deciding if he will join the majority bloc or gun for the position of House Minority Leader. – Rappler.com