MANILA , MAY 18, 2010
(STAR) By Jess Diaz - The speakership is in the bag for Quezon City Representative-elect Feliciano Belmonte Jr. if President Arroyo – an incoming congresswoman – is really not interested in the job, Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said yesterday.

“Tapos na ang laban (the fight is over) if she is not running,” Gonzales, incumbent House senior deputy majority leader who will most likely be the Liberal Party’s candidate for majority leader, said.

He predicted that many Arroyo allies in the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD would eventually decide to support Belmonte.

“The problem is very few might remain with Lakas,” he said in Filipino.

Belmonte, incumbent mayor of Quezon City, defected to the Liberal Party (LP) together with Gonzales and supported the presidential candidacy of Sen. Benigno Aquino III.

Belmonte himself expressed confidence in winning the speakership with votes not only from the LP and its allies but from Lakas as well.

He told dzMM’s Ted Failon that he has many friends in Lakas whom he could convince to support his bid for the fourth highest position in the land.

“At the proper time, I will have the numbers and more than the numbers to win,” he said.

Belmonte had served as Speaker in the 11th Congress.

In a separate interview on GMA-7’s “Unang Hirit,” Belmonte said his group would give its Lakas-Kampi rival a “good fight” even if Mrs. Arroyo were the ruling party’s candidate.

“We’ll give a good fight. History is actually on the side of LP,” Belmonte said.

He said in the past, elected congressmen allied themselves with the “winning side.”

“When I was elected congressman in 1992, the ruling party that time was also overwhelming – the majority was also over 100. Most of them were on the other side, on the winning side,” Belmonte said of the Lakas-NUCD party then.

“During the fight of Joseph Estrada and JDV (former House speaker Jose de Venecia) more than 100 lawmakers, including myself, were in the ruling party in Lakas. In no time at all, a huge group over 70 headed by our Cong. (now senator) Manny Villar moved over to the other side,” he said.

When asked if he has started to court votes from other political groups, he said, “I have to be frank and say yes.”

“A lot of government officials live in QC and so I connected with them and that’s probably one of the reasons why my name has been brought up as a possible contender for the speakership position,” he said when asked why he emerged as LP’s bet for speaker.

The group of Belmonte and Gonzales has already secured commitments from congressmen belonging to the Nationalist People’s Coalition and the Nacionalista Party for a majority alliance in the House.

LP campaign manager Florencio Abad said in a radio interview that more than 30 Lakas members and party-list representatives have expressed their intention to join LP and support Belmonte’s speakership bid.

An LP congressman told The STAR that their problem is not getting the majority in the House but forming a majority alliance in the Senate.

“I think the party should not enter into a coalition with Sen. Manuel Villar’s Nacionalista Party and allow Sen. Villar to retake the Senate presidency. Sen. Villar has not yet recovered from corruption and impropriety charges leveled against him by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Jamby Madrigal during the election campaign,” he said.

He said he would prefer that his party mates in the Senate coalesce with the group of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, which includes senators Jinggoy Estrada and Gregorio Honasan.

Palace meeting

At Malacañang, President Arroyo is scheduled to meet again today with her Lakas allies to choose their bet for the post of speaker. A party leader said over the weekend that Lakas would most likely field Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman against Belmonte if Mrs. Arroyo decides not to run.

Other administration allies who want to become speaker are Danilo Suarez of Quezon, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte and Crispin Remulla of Cavite.

Suarez, Romualdez and Mindoro Occidental Rep. Amelita Villarosa are among the Arroyo loyalists who are expected to stick it out with her if her group becomes the minority bloc in the House.

The three are among Mrs. Arroyo’s favorite overseas travel companions.

Work with foes, Aquino told

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar, meanwhile, advised Aquino to learn to work with his opponents if he intends to see his legislative agenda take off.

“If you look at the numbers, there are about 50 from LP. If he can find it within himself to come to some kind of accommodation and be able to mobilize the 100-plus votes of Lakas-Kampi in some kind of alliance with him, that is certainly a practical way to bring the agenda forward,” Olivar said. – With Marvin Sy and Perseus Echeminada

Palace grateful for good remarks on automated polls By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) Updated May 18, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang said yesterday it was gratified by congratulations that continue to come in from the international community on the conduct of the country’s first nationwide automated elections last week.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said foreign observers came to the Philippines “as much as to learn from our (automated electoral) process as to monitor the implementation of that process.”

“We continue to be gratified by the accolades coming in from other countries. As we said, this is a feather in the cap of the Comelec (Commission on Elections) but it is also a vindication of the President’s promise to automate the elections,” Olivar told a news briefing.

France, the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and China congratulated the Philippines for the successful conduct of the elections.

The European Union (EU) was the latest to extend its best wishes to the Philippines for its impressive conduct of the recent elections, believing it was credible despite numerous reported incidents of rampant vote-buying and violence.

Finland Ambassador Heikki Hannikainen said the overall result of the elections was seen as positive by the members of the EU although there were reported glitches in the use of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and the compact flash cards.

“The elections in the Philippines are much, much better than before. We discussed it with my colleagues in the European Union and they all agree it was credible,” Hannikainen said.

He said the EU sent between 40 to 50 representatives to observe the conduct of elections in the country.

The French embassy, on the other hand, said a special recognition has to be given to the Comelec, to citizen organizations including the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and and the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) for their contributions.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Charito Planas said the relatively smooth conduct of the polls proved Mrs. Arroyo’s critics wrong.

“As the administration was bombarded with various accusations of machinations ranging from ‘no-el’ (no election), failed election resulting in a vacuum in the presidency, a civil and military junta that will secure the position for President Arroyo to many other wild imaginations, the smooth and almost trouble-free polls last Monday, despite fears of technical malfunctions, refuted all these insinuations,” Planas said.

“It is but fair to commend President Arroyo for all her quiet moves in gathering all the agencies and sectors concerned for the continuous support and belief in the constitutionally-mandated body in charge of elections, to ensure smooth, clean and orderly elections, and for keeping her word,” she said.

The Palace also commended the Comelec, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, teachers, poll watchers, volunteers, students and senior citizens who stood alert to guard the whole exercise and who added up to the safety nets of a computerized counting of votes.

Planas said the last polls resulted to many “firsts” in the history of Philippines. – With Manny Galvez, Pia Lee-Brago

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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