15 congressmen seen as potential senatorial bets
Published : Monday, March 17, 2014 00:00
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Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
AT least 15 members of the House of Representatives, a known breeding ground for national leaders, are now being seen by some political observers in the institution as potential senatorial bets in the 2016 presidential elections.
Among the members of the 16th Congress at the Lower House whom observers regarded as the so-called “senatoriables” include House independent minority bloc leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla, Sarangani Rep. Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, Cavite Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr., Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco, Quezon City Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo, Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.
It was said that these lawmakers have been either outspoken or critical on so many issues confronting the Aquino administration, have been enjoying political clout, name recall, material resources and machinery.
Some of the prominent national figures in recent years whose political career began from the House of Representatives are President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Sens. Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Teofisto Guingona III, and Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
In an interview, Romualdez expressed gratitude to those appreciating him as a possible senatorial candidate but he stressed that it is a long way to go and there are important things to be done right now following the devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda in his district.
“Thank you for the consideration but it is too early for that. Right now we will continue to focus on the district and the Yolanda-stricken areas,” Romualdez, a constructive critic of the Aquino administration and president of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), said.
Romualdez, a lawyer and banker, is the president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) who ran unopposed on his third and final term in the last elections.
Mercado-Revilla, wife of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., said she will use the almost two-month congressional break to determine if she is running for the Senate.
“Nothing sure yet, we will be praying for career directions during our break,” said Mercado-Revilla, a member of Romualdez bloc.
Among them, only Gatchalian made a categorical answer, confirming that he is “considering” running for the Senate.
“Sa ngayon trabaho tayo ng trabaho but I am considering running for the Senate. Noong 2010 ko pa kino-consider,” said Gatchalian who has been visible in the company of Vice President Jejomar Binay, a declared presidential candidate, in the latter’s out of towns.
Binay claimed Pacquiao has agreed to be part of his senatorial slate in 2016 under a new party he will launch on June 12, 2014. Barzaga, Benitez, Quimbo, Evardone, Tiangco and Castelo said they have no plans of running to the Senate.
“I’ll be returning to my old post,” Barzaga, a former mayor of Dasmariñas City, chairman of the House committee on games and amusement, and vice president of National Unity Party (NUP), stressed.
Benitez, chairman of the Visayan bloc and a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), said it is too early to discuss politics, adding he is very busy working for the interest of his constituents and also in helping rebuild areas hit by Yolanda.
“Trabaho lamang po tayo lalo’t iyan ang kailangan ng taumbayan. I don’t really ponder about it (senatorial bid),” Benitez, who chairs the House committee on housing and urban development and vice chairman of the House committee on interparliamentary relations and diplomacy, stressed.
Quimbo, who chairs the House committee on ways and means and a former spokesman for the House prosecution panel during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, said: “it’s too early to talk about that. There so much work at hand, particularly in making laws and policies that shall turn our growth into more jobs. What we should be focusing on right now is preparing our Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenue for the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) economic integration. To think about politics now is a disservice to our people and the oath we took when we were elected.”
Evardone, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations and one of the outspoken members of the LP said: “my concentration now is to rebuild and reconstruct my province hit by Yolanda.”
Tiangco, secretary general and spokesman of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), categorically declared he is not running for the Senate.
“Salamat naman at ganoon ang tingin nila, but I am not running for the Senate in 2016. May one term pa ako at gusto kong lubos-lubusin ang pag-serbisyo ko sa mga kababayan ko sa Navotas,” Tiangco said. Castelo, who chairs the House committee on Metro Manila development, said “he is focused on his work as congressman and finding solution to ensure public safety from the hands of transportation sector and ease traffic woes.”
De Venecia, wife of former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., said: “I think becoming a national leader is a matter of destiny. We just have to be faithful in fulfilling the tasks given to us.”
Colmenares, a House Deputy Minority Leader and part of the left-leaning Makabayan bloc, said: “salamat sa mga may pagtingin na ako ay may senatorial caliber. We are just doing our job as fiscalizers. A senatorial run requires a lot of funds to have a winning chance and we do not have the resources for that. So even if we progressives believe we can make a difference in the Senate, the odds are stacked against us.”
“It will be self-serving if I comment about myself. I will leave it to you and other third persons to discuss it,” Rodriguez, a ex-commissioner of formerly Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), said.
Tupas, who chairs the House committee on justice and a former prosecutor during Corona’s impeachment trial, said: “as of the moment, I’m not giving it much thought yet as the election is still more than two years from now.”
“I’m just busy now with the committee work in the committee on justice to pass important legislations such as the Whistleblower Act, Witness Protection, the New Code of Crimes, New Criminal Investigation Act, New Immigration Act, and Amendments to Sandiganbayan Law, among others,” said Tupas, a stalwart of the LP.
Fariñas, a former House prosecutor in the impeachment trial of Corona and now a member of the Commission on Appointments (CA) and Romulo, who chairs the House committee on higher and technical education and son of former Sen. Alberto Romulo, have yet to respond to the query of this reporter on their possible Senate plan for 2016 polls.