By Marc Jayson Cayabyab and Gianfranco Geronimo
Political alliances are important for any politician to survive in the fray of Philippine politics. This is especially the case for those eyeing the fourth highest position in the land: Speaker of the House of Representatives.
According to the House of Representative’s website, the Speaker is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Philippine Congress. He or she is elected if a majority vote of all members of the House is cast, which is done at the start of a new Congress.
Whoever is elected Speaker will be replacing outgoing Speaker Prospero Nograles, Davao City 1st district representative and Speaker since 2008.
However, more than a battle of gaining a seat in the House, there lies a battle of numbers in the race for the Speakership, when party ties and other political relationships are put to a test.
The number of representatives from different parties definitely gives high hopes for each party’s candidate as Speaker this year. Lakas-KAMPI-CMD (Lakas) remained the party with the most number of seats, with 109 members in Congress, followed by the Liberal Party (LP) with 49, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) with 33, and the Nacionalista Party (NP) with 25.
The political scene in Congress during the selection of Speaker is mired with political butterflies who constantly shift allegiances. Members of Congress, more often than not, usually side with the administration’s party to gain the favor of the incumbent President—who, after all, has the power of appropriating the Priority Development Assistance Fund, known as the “pork barrel,” to members of Congress.
The political aspirant for Speaker, whether of the administration party or not, is then faced with the challenge of attracting as many supporters as possible, whether through founding coalitions, building up political alliances, or consolidating the party’s forces.
This is the expected political scene in the 15th Congress, and a two-way fight is underway, the contenders from a variety of political backgrounds: Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte (LP), outgoing Quezon City mayor, and Edcel Lagman (Lakas), incumbent Albay representative and primary author of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill.