By Daniel Llanto

President Duterte expressed intention in recruiting House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez as his vice-presidential candidate in the 2022 general elections.

This also signifies that Duterte’s mind is made up as to his choice of presidential candidate: his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Former Speaker now simply Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap were among the allies who heard Duterte proclaim Romualdez as his choice.

Cayetano, who seemed out of the loop after losing the speakership to Lord Allan Velasco, said he first heard of the President’s choice in one of their meetings during the speakership row.

“Yun naman ang sinabi niya (Duterte) noong nag-usap kaming tatlo (Cayetano, Romualdez and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco) from the start,” Cayetano told reporters in an ambush interview.

That day na nag-usap kaming tatlo na may term sharing, hindi siguro lumabas sa news ‘yun pero ‘yun ang kasama sa usapan na vice-presidential bet nya si Martin,” Cayetano said.

“I heard it right from the President’s mouth,” Yap said, adding he was with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Sen. Bong Go, Deputy Speaker Abraham Tolentino and House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano.

Romualdez, a lawyer-banker, represents the first district of Leyte. He is also president of the Philippine Constitution Association and of the once powerful Lakas-CMD, which now has about 32 members in the House.

Romualdez is a nephew of former first lady Imelda Marcos, who hails from Leyte, and first cousin of Sen. Imee Marcos.

Sources say Duterte was impressed with Romualdez, who has been a consensus-builder, and who remained neutral in the speakership fight between Cayetano and Allan Velasco.

This was not the first time the President floated the idea of picking Romualdez as the administration party’s standard-bearer for vice-president, who he credited for steering the administration’s legislative agenda.

Unlike Cayetano and Velasco, Duterte didn’t want Romualdez to have a term-sharing agreement with a fellow congressman, that is why he will serve as House majority leader throughout the 18th Congress from July 2019 to June 2022.

He also credited the excellent work ethic of Romualdez behind the passage of President Duterte’s legislative agenda and other priority measures that are vital to national survival amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin is a good person, napakasipag. Nakatulong ng husto sa Kongreso at sa pandemic. Hindi nagtago ‘yan, pumapasok parati. So, I wish him well kung ano man ang tatakbuhin niya,” Cayetano said.

The President has repeatedly voiced out his preference for Romualdez as vice- presidential bet in a series of private meetings with senators and congressmen, the latest of which took place during the signing of the 2021 General Appropriations Act in Malacañang last December 28.