Davao del Norte’s Alvarez elected House Speaker

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Davao del Norte’s Pantaleon Alvarez was elected overwhelmingly as Speaker of the House of Representatives Monday and immediately rallied fellow lawmakers to support President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to shift to a federal form of government and pass priority bills.

Alvarez was voted by 251 out of 293 members of the House after being nominated by his predecessor, Quezon City 4th District Rep. Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. Congressmen from other political parties seconded Belmonte’s nomination.

Alvarez: Let us support the President by giving him tools to effect change

In his speech, Alvarez urged members of Congress to pass laws necessary to give Duterte “his tools to effect a genuine change.”

“We too must be instruments of change,” he added. “We must roll up their sleeves and get to work.”

Alvarez said “the holy grail” in the Duterte administration’s vision to spread development throughout the country is the shift from a unitary to a federal form of government, which will entail a revision of the 1987 Constitution.

“The power of imperial Manila over the rest of our nation has to end,” Alvarez said. “LGUs (local government units) must need to stand on their own feet.”

The revival of the death penalty, he said, is a priority in the legislative agenda of the House, marking the proposal House Bill No. 1. He said the death penalty is an extreme punitive response to crime.

“If by being a drug lord you destroy the lives and the future of a thousand people, then you must pay with your life,” Alvarez said.

He said capital punishment will instill a culture of responsibility, particularly among the youth. “We must teach our young that there are consequences in everything we say and do,” he said.

Alvarez said other priorities on the administration’s legislative agenda include revising the government procurement act, taxation, labor, and mining laws.

The Speaker also urged the lawmakers to pass an encompassing Freedom of Information law, to “bring the light of truth” to all government agencies.

“The President has started the ball rolling in the direction of greater transparency in government by signing an executive order for the Freedom of Information,” said Alvarez.

House to choose other leaders

Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. were also nominated for Speaker in the opening session of the 17th Congress. Baguilat got eight votes while Suarez received seven. Suarez chose Alvarez while Baguilat voted for himself.

Alvarez and 20 other representatives abstained in the voting while one congressman registered a “No” vote. Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, said he did not vote for anyone to keep his independence in the 17th Congress.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, the acting majority floor leader, said those who did not vote with the majority will comprise the minority — and will choose their own leader. Those who abstained can opt to be independent or join the minority, which has not yet chosen the Minority Leader.