Belmonte likely LP bet for speaker
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Quezon City Mayor Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. will likely be the Liberal Party’s candidate for speaker of the House of Representatives should Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III emerge as winner in the May 10 elections.
LP president and vice presidential candidate Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II revealed that Belmonte would be the party’s bet for speaker to counter any move to install President Arroyo as House leader if she gets elected as Pampanga representative.
Belmonte is running to represent Quezon City’s fourth congressional district while Mrs. Arroyo is seeking representation of Pampanga’s second congressional district in the May 10 elections.
Roxas said Belmonte is a sure winner based on surveys, but did not say if Mrs. Arroyo would also win to become a House member in the coming 15th Congress.
Asked if Belmonte would be the LP’s bet for House speaker especially since Mrs. Arroyo would likely become a member of the House as well, Roxas replied: “Dapat lang, kung ano ang tama (He should be, that would be correct).”
Belmonte, for his part, said he could not say if Mrs. Arroyo would initiate moves in the House to become speaker.
“Does she want to be (speaker)? Of course she wants to be able to control as big a bloc as she can, but is she willing to be the face of it or let somebody else? Palagay ko may mga surrogates dyan (I think she will have surrogates),” Belmonte said.
“(She already became) president, being speaker is yet another position. What you want is the power. How can you be in power? When you raise your hands and everybody says yes to you, that’s power,” Belmonte told reporters following a meeting of LP leaders at the party headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City.
Belmonte admitted that Mrs. Arroyo could still wield power if elected to Congress.
He said Mrs. Arroyo has the power to gather support in the House to elect a speaker who could be her surrogate.
But Belmonte refused to speculate if he would indeed be the LP’s bet as speaker. “I am sure there are other candidates,” he said.
He said Mrs. Arroyo could also not be sure she could become the speaker even if she wanted to.
Belmonte explained that even if her allies in the Lakas-Kampi-CMD would win, she could not be sure that their loyalty would stay with her.
“I don’t think so. In the initial salvo, I think there will be some friendly forces. (But) sooner or later, the new president will call the shots,” he said.
Belmonte said at this time one could not count on who might win and how the House would be constituted.
Based on experience, he said congressmen tend to toe the line of the new president.
Belmonte said he had witnessed twice how congressmen could jump ship to be on the president’s side just a day or two after pledging loyalty to their parties.
“I was in one meeting, we said one for all, all for one. Two days later, almost everyone was already on the other side. And I saw it happen twice; the power of the president is stronger over the House. From experience, in two instances, after the proclamation, in no time at all, everyone was with the president,” he said.
Belmonte said Mrs. Arroyo, a former ally, would likely put up a fight.
“She wants to be the leader, the real boss, the speaker will just be a pawn, one of her lap dogs (at the House). That’s what she wants, and there are many ambitious people there,” he said.
At the same time, Belmonte expressed confidence that victory is at hand for the LP tandem of Aquino and Roxas, given their widening margins over other candidates.
“Everybody was saying in the beginning that it (popularity of Aquino and Roxas) was a balloon that would burst, but we’re in the end game and they’re still ahead,” he said.
The Quezon City mayor also expressed concern over the abuse of the party-list system, noting that aside from Mrs. Arroyo, her son Dato is running for congressman of Camarines Sur while another son, Juan Miguel, was nominated to represent a supposed party-list group of security guards.
“I think (the party-list system has) been abused. Every Tom, Dick and Harry can (be a representative of any group). (Party-list being for) the disadvantaged groups (is) gone. Given that they already allowed this, we should know who is running for what, not just the unknown names, they just make a fool (of people) by giving the names of the groups (and not the nominees),” Belmonte said.