Jockeying for key House posts starts
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The jockeying for key posts in the House of Representatives for the 16th Congress has started, but Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday chairmanships of committees would be given based on one’s qualifications and seniority.

The 16th Congress will convene on July 22 and the House is expected to have at least 292 members, dominated by the Liberal Party (LP), which has at least 110 lawmakers in its roster.

“We have 60 or 70 committees so naturally not everybody can be accommodated as chairman, but definitely we will try to choose people on the basis of their own inclination, experience and education to keep particular chairmanships, plus their seniority in the body,” Belmonte told reporters.

He also said some chairpersons may retain their posts while others want another committee or choice seats in the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) or the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).

“We are trying to be reasonable and as fair as possible in the assignment of chairmanships and membership because members are equally important,” Belmonte added.

All House members were formally asked for their committee of choice.

The House will have 143 re-elected members, 25 returning lawmakers, 66 neophytes, and as many as 60 party-list representatives.

The House has 58 standing committees and 11 special panels. The vice chairman of the committee on appropriations is equivalent to the chairmanship of a regular committee, and there are at least 20 slots for this.

Party affiliation, however, is also a factor in the selection of chairpersons or slots in the CA and HRET.

UNA joining LP-led majority

The opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is joining the LP-led majority in the House.

Outgoing An Waray Rep. Florencio Noel, one of the leaders of the majority bloc, told reporters yesterday that Makati Rep. Abigail Binay has informed him and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II that UNA would remain with the majority.

“They will remain with the LP-led bloc led by the Speaker, except for Cong. Toby, who will continue to be an independent. That’s the message we received,” he said.

He was referring to Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, UNA secretary-general. Tiangco and Binay, daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay, one of UNA’s founders, are the leaders of the eight-member UNA bloc in the House.

Binay’s daughter, her Makati colleague Monique Lagdameo and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, who belongs to the Binay alliance, are currently members of the majority.

The decision of Rep. Binay and her colleagues to join the House majority means that UNA will straddle both the ruling bloc and the opposition in Congress.

Other parties in the majority coalition are the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the Nacionalista Party (NP), National Unity Party (NUP), Centrist Democratic Party, some members of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, and some party-list groups.

Gonzales said the NPC is likely to be allotted about 11 chairmanships; the NUP, 10 slots; and the NP, two committees.

He also said about nine committees would be given to party-list groups, and a few chairmanships would be reserved for UNA.

World boxing champion Pacquiao is said to be eyeing the committee on aquaculture, youth and sports development, or overseas Filipinos.

Meanwhile, Reps. Mel Senen Sarmiento (Western Samar), Isidro Ungab (Davao City) and Dakila Cua (Quirino) are all competing for the appropriations committee.

“Whoever doesn’t get that committee will get the ways and means committee,” Gonzales said.

He also said Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas is expected to remain as chairman of the justice committee, while Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas could be elected deputy speaker or have a seat in the CA.

The House contingent to the CA will be comprised of five members from the LP, two from the NP, and one each from the NP and NUP.

Gonzales said of the six positions for deputy speaker, three would be reserved for the LP, one each for the NPC, NP, and NUP. – Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez and Jess Diaz

ABIGAIL BINAY ALL HOUSE BELMONTE BINAY COMMITTEE GONZALES HOUSE MAJORITY PARTY UNA
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