Romualdez to ‘return the favor’ to those who helped Eastern Visayas after Yolanda

Mara Cepeda
Romualdez to ‘return the favor’ to those who helped Eastern Visayas after Yolanda
Around 100 House allies show up at Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez's thanksgiving party after he vows out of the speakership race

MANILA, Philippines – Less than a week before the House elects its new Speaker, Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez faced around 100 of his lawmaker allies and thanked them for supporting his speakership bid. 

Romualdez hosted a thanksgiving dinner for legislators spanning different political parties at the posh EDSA Shangri-La hotel on Tuesday night, July 16. 

A congressman who previously served 3 terms from 2007 to 2016, Romualdez said he decided to run for office again to give back to legislators who helped Eastern Visayas recover from the destruction of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013. 

“After Yolanda, in my district, the hardest hit district was demolished. So many people were dead, hopeless. And all of you came to help us. And that is why we are back and that is why I’m here – that the remaining years of public service, I would also like to give back and return the favor to each and every one of you,” said Romualdez.

“[Whether] working as a Speaker, as any House leader, as Majority Leader, in any capacity, I really want to dedicate my last years in public service working for you, by you, for what you have done for us,” he added. 

On Tuesday night, Romualdez received a rockstar treatment from his allies, who applauded several times during his speech. 

When Romualdez arrived at the party venue, lawmakers took turns either shaking his hands, kissing his cheek, or even hugging him. Romualdez shared light conversations with most of them too. 

Among those present during Romualdez’s thanksgiving was his close ally, former president turned speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who shared a table with her husband Mike Arroyo and Romualdez’s wife, Tingog Representative Yedda Marie Romualdez.  

The Voice of the Philippines Season 2 winner Jason Dy and actress Toni Gonzaga performed songs for the Romualdez’s allies, while a live band played music for the crowd for the rest of the evening.

VIP TABLE. Romualdez sits beside his wife Tingog Representative Yedda Romualdez (3rd from L) and their ally, former president and speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (3rd from R). Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

Romualdez was considered a strong contender for the speakership because of the close ties he has developed with fellow lawmakers over the years.  

But he has decided to drop out of the race and become the influential Majority Leader instead, a deal agreed upon with President Rodrigo Duterte, who endorsed a term-sharing scheme between Taguig City-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco. 

Before arriving at EDSA Shangri-La on Tuesday night, Romualdez even briefly attended Cayetano’s seminar for neophyte lawmakers at Taguig City. 

Not a show of force?

ROMUALDEZ ALLIES. Around 100 lawmakers arrive at EDSA Shangri-La hotel for Romualdez's thanksgiving dinner. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

Despite the huge number of lawmakers present at Romualdez’s thanksgiving, his ally Anak Kalusugan Representative Mike Defensor refused to describe it as a show of force days before the House chooses its next Speaker on Monday, July 22. 

“I think in the same manner, if Cong. Allan Velasco would call for a get-together, many of us will also be attending because marami pa kaming hindi kilala. There are 300 of us and many, about 100 neophyte members of the House, so this would be a good way to know each other before the official SONA (State of the Nation Address) of the President,” Defensor told reporters on the sidelines of the event.  

He also said the thanksgiving dinner will have no effect on the term-sharing deal already agreed upon by Romualdez, Cayetano, and Velasco with the President.

“I don’t think so, kasi malinaw naman ‘yong pronouncement ni Presidente (because the President’s pronouncement is clear). Whatever thanksgiving or gathering or get-together that would happen, I think it will have no effect on the announcement of the President,” said Defensor. 

The House of Representatives will be holding its election for Speaker on July 22, when the 18th Congress opens session. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.