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Cayetano formally elected as the 22nd House Speaker

The House of Representatives on Monday formally elected Taguig City Representative Alan Peter Cayetano as the 22nd Speaker of the House.

With a vote of 266, Cayetano beat fellow nominee Manila 6th District Representative Benny Abante Jr. who got 28 votes.

Two lawmakers abstained and one did not vote.

Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco and Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez nominated Cayetano to the speakership post.

Iloilo Representative Janet Garin and AKO BICOL party-list Representative Alfredo Garbin nominated Abante.

In his speech following the election, Cayetano urged his fellow lawmakers to “do what is right” to achieve a House of Representatives that “is relevant, responsive and reliable.”

He even quoted this passage from the Gospel According to Matthew: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything shall be added unto you.”

“Let us do what is right. People love their congressmen, but they love to hate Congress. This is something I ask all of you: In unison, let us change that because this is the ‘House of the People’,” he said.

“We should respect and love our congressmen but we should also feel that the House of Representatives is the House of the People. Tayo ang takbuhan ng sambayanan,” he added.

Cayetano is expected to hold the post for 15 months. He will then relinquish the speakership to Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, who will lead the House during the succeeding 21 months.

The Speaker gave the assurance that he would hold the speakership only for the period he is supposed to. “Sana ako ay maging worthy at sana ay tulungan niyo ako para sa loob ng 15 buwan ay mapagsilbihan natin ang ating mga kababayan nang mabuti, at lahat ng nasa legislative agenda ubusin na natin at ipasa na natin dahil mas magandang magawa na natin ito agad,” he said.

Tight race

Cayetano’s election came after a lengthy and tight race to the speakership, with eight contenders competing for the position at one time.

Among them were Velasco, Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez, Pampanga Representative Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales, Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, and even Davao City 1st District Representative and presidential son Paolo Duterte.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate and Davao City 3rd District Isidro Ungab were likewise nominated by their respective blocs.

But Cayetano’s edge over the others was President Rodrigo Duterte’s endorsement of the Taguig representative as his bet for the speakership.

Duterte declared Cayetano would be sharing the position with Velasco, and that Romualdez would instead hold the majority leadership post.

On Monday, Romualdez was elected as House Majority Leader.

Critics, however, gave Duterte’s endorsement the thumbs down, saying his action compromises the independence of the House as co-equal and independent branch of the government.

Cayetano was first elected to the House as representative of the first district of Taguig City in 1998. He held that position until 2007.

In the 2007 elections, he ran for senator and won. He was a senator for 10 years before Duterte appointed him as Secretary of Foreign Affairs in 2017.

Cayetano was also Duterte’s running mate in the 2016 elections, but lost to Vice President Leni Robredo.

Other leadership posts

Apart from the Speaker and Majority Leader, the House also elected the deputy speakers for the 18th Congress, namely:

  •     Paolo Duterte
  •     Ferdinand Hernandez
  •     Evelina Escudero
  •     Loren Legarda
  •     Conrad Estrella III
  •     Prospero Pichay Jr.
  •     Roberto Puno
  •     Eduardo Villanueva
  •     Aurelio Gonzales Jr.
  •     Johnny Pimentel
  •     Luis Raymund Villafuerte

Elected as chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations was Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab while Cavite Representative Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino was installed as chair of the Committee on Accounts.

The chamber also elected Jose Luis Montales as Secretary General and Retired Gen. Ramon Apolinario as Sergeant-at-Arms.

Last year, a sudden leadership change at the House caused a ruckus inside the plenary hall after then-Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was elected House Speaker, delaying Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address by around an hour.

In contrast, there were “no fireworks” this year, Albay Representative Joey Salceda noted, saying a majority of the lawmakers have already decided to vote for Cayetano even before the formal election.—VDS, GMA News