By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
The 43-man Visayan bloc will come out strong this coming next Congress and is expected to cross party lines to vote as a group for the next leader of the House of Representatives.
Outgoing Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez said the remaining members of the Visayan bloc will be solid and will practice bloc voting in electing the country’s next House Speaker.
Benitez, who will be vacating his post as the leader of the coalition, said they would reconvene in July to choose among the five aspirants for the Speakership.
“We all agreed that our choice will depend on the bloc’s preference,” Benitez said when asked about the criteria they are looking for the next House Speaker.
The outgoing Negros solon neither confirmed nor denied if the bloc will be supporting the candidate from the ruling administration party, PDP Laban, the same party where Benitez is currently affiliated.
The leadership of the ruling party has yet to determine who will they support among their three members vying for the top House spot, namely reelected Reps. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque), Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales (Pampanga) and former House Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez (Davao del Norte).
PDP currently has 83 incoming members this coming 18th Congress but the ruling party is reportedly not solid since President Rodrigo Duterte, chairman of the party, has refused to select among his party mates, according to Gonzales.
Many observers inside the Lower House are also not dismissing the possibility that the bloc will support Lakas-CMD chairman and incoming Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez being the lone contender for Speakership who hails from the Visayas region.
Benitez said their members came from different political entities but will definitely cross party lines in selecting the next House Speaker.
The three-term lawmaker from Negros is expected to remain in the Visayan bloc as an advisor after his term expires on June 30.
On Tuesday, the 54-man members of Party-list Coalition Foundation, Inc. (PCFI) which is headed by 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero reaffirmed its position that they will also vote as bloc in the highly-contested Speakership battle.