New Philippine House speaker elected

New Philippine House speaker elected

MANILA, Jan. 24 Kyodo

The Philippine House of Representatives on Wednesday elected as new speaker Rep. Feliciano Belmonte, who belongs to the same political party as newly installed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Belmonte got 112 votes, while his opponent, Agapito Aquino from ousted President Joseph Estrada’s political party, received 79 votes.

Belmonte, a former newsman and a trained lawyer, was minority floor leader of the House before his election as speaker and led the 11-man House prosecution panel in the collapsed impeachment trial of Estrada.

He replaces former Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella from Estrada’s Party of the Filipino Masses (LAMP).

The realignment of forces in the House follows the swearing-in Saturday of Arroyo as the Philippines 14th president.

Estrada was ousted from the presidency after a Supreme Court decision declared his seat vacant. The high court’s action followed massive ”people power” protests calling for Estrada’s resignation, the withdrawal of support for Estrada by the entire military and police forces, and the resignation of the majority of his cabinet.

Estrada was impeached by the House on Nov. 13 on charges including bribery and corruption. He was being tried by the Senate impeachment court but the trial collapsed Jan. 16 after Estrada’s supporters blocked the opening of crucial evidence against him.

The Senate decision led to the resignation of the prosecution panel, the resignation of Senate President Aquilino Pimentel and widespread public protests.

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