Belmonte still Speaker; Zamora new House Minority Leader
MANILA, Philippines (3rd Update) - As expected, Quezon City Rep Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr retained his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives on Monday, July 22.
The race for the minority post was another story, however.
In a close fight, San Juan Rep Ronaldo Zamora bagged the House Minority Leadership post, beating Leyte Rep Martin Romualdez. Based on the list provided by the House Secretariat, Zamora received 19 votes while Romualdez received 16. (We earlier reported 245 votes for Belmonte and 18 votes for Zamora, as announced on the floor - Ed.)
Romualdez was hoping to retain the hold of Lakas-NUCD on the minority position. Former Quezon Rep Danilo Suarez, a Lakas-NUCD stalwart, was the minority leader in the 15th Congress.
Under House rules, the candidate for Speaker who gets the second highest number of votes automatically becomes the House Minority Leader.
Romualdez, who is Lakas-NUCD president and an ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, made an early bid for the House minority leader post, courting members of the Makabayan bloc as well as the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), among others.
Romualdez is a son of Benjamin Romualdez, brother of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
Zamora, also a former Marcos ally, made known his plans to run against the much younger Romualdez later. He belongs to the local Partido Magdiwang but has close ties with the Nacionalista Party. Zamora's brother Buddy helped finance the 2010 presidential campaign of President Benigno Aquino III.
But Zamora denied accusations that his bid for the House Minority Leadership was supported by the administration because of his brother's ties to Aquino.
"My brother was never involved in this," Zamora told reporters shortly after his election." "I have two brothers, they are engaged in business, they're quite successful, but no, certainly, certainly, certainly not."
Despite a late run, the veteran lawmaker edged out Romualdez after he managed to get the support of the Makabayan bloc – a coalition of 7 progressive party list representatives in the House.
UNA, meanwhile, decided to join Belmonte's majority coalition.
Lakas to stay with Minority
Even after their rivalry, both Romualdez and Zamora said in a joint ambush interview that Lakas-CMD will stay with the Minority.
"What's important is that Congressman Romualdez will join us," Zamora said. "While I'm not prepared to say what the assignments will be, obviously we welcome them."
Asked whether they would be open to share their terms, Zamora said they have yet to discuss the matter.
Lakas-CMD won at least 13 House seats in the recent mid-term elections.
Based on the number of votes the candidates for Speaker received, the minority coalition will have an estimate of 34 members while the majority will have at least 244 members.
A total of 245 members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of Belmonte. Seven of them nominated Belmonte for his second term as Speaker, citing his leadership in the 15th Congress.
The last Congress saw a number of historic moments - the passage of landmark laws on reproductive health and sin tax, as well as the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Belmonte enjoys the backing of President Benigno Aquino III. - Rappler.com
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