Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, one of the contenders for the speakership along with the younger Duterte, welcomed the creation of the coalition, as it would solidify the allies of the President in the House and push the administration’s legislative agenda.
“I join the call of Hugpong ng Pagbabago and Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod for Congressmen to unite under the banner of the reform agenda set by President Rodrigo Duterte,” Romualdez said in a statement.
“I join hands with the Duterte coalition in establishing a House of Representatives that truly reflects the will of our people.”
Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, the ruling PDP-Laban party’s bet for Speaker, also endorsed the younger Duterte’s new group, made up of mostly Davao-based lawmakers.
Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, who had proposed the speakership term sharing with Velasco to the President, has admitted that he has little chance of bagging the House’s top position, saying Romualdez is a shoo-in for the speakership if voting were held this week.
In a television interview on Monday, Cayetano conceded that Romualdez has the biggest number of supporters among all the candidates for Speaker.
“If you ask me right now who has the most number of supporters, it’s probably Martin,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
But on Friday, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s HNP rejected the proposed term-sharing for the Speaker of the House, saying it would be counter-productive.
Meanwhile, the Palace on Friday denied allegations that Cabinet members are meddling in the tight speakership race, reiterating that President Duterte will not have a hand in the matter.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said reports about some Cabinet officials egging the Chief Executive to step into the race to succeed Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are “certainly not true.”
“The President has maintained his position that he will not intrude into the speakership contest,” Panelo said. “[And] reports saying that members of the Cabinet are meddling [are] certainly not true.”
However, the Paolo Duterte-led coalition said in a statement: “It has come to our attention that certain presidential Cabinet members have their bet for Speaker.”
“Everyone should note that Cabinet members serve only on the basis of the trust and confidence of the President and should not participate in the selection of the Speaker,” it added.
“President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he will not interfere in the race for the next Speaker of the House—noting that all candidates are his allies,” the coalition said.
Aside from Paolo Duterte, other members of the so-called Duterte Coalition are Reps. Isidro Ungab and Vincent Garcia of Davao City, Corazon Malanyaon of Davao Oriental, Manuel Zamora of Compostela Valley, Lorna Bautista of Davao Occidental, as well as allies Claudine Bautista of Dumper party-list, Sandro Gonzales and Anton Lopez of Marino Party-list.
They come from the ranks of the regional Hugpong ng Pagbabago party and Davao-based Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod.
Cayetano made the remark as he disputed broadcaster Karen Davila’s comment that Velasco seems to be the frontrunner in the speakership race because of the endorsement he received from the President’s PDP-Laban and other major political parties.
But Cayetano said the PDP-Laban has already denied they are supporting Velasco, as has the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
The majority leader of the 17th Congress and two former presidential chiefs of staff have also revealed that Romualdez has more than 160 congressmen working to elect him as Speaker of the 18th Congress.
“I have seen the manifesto for support for Congressman Martin and I saw the signatures of 167 congressmen from different political parties and blocs of the 18th Congress. An initial list of 80 congressmen was shown to the President last month, but the numbers have grown to 167 as of the moment,” Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor told reporters during Pandesal Forum at Kamuning Bakery Cafe in Quezon City on Thursday.
“I will not disclose the exact numbers but all I can say, Congressman Martin has the numbers, more than enough and determinative, to catapult him to the speakership,” said Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, who was reelected to office after serving as Majority Leader of the 17th Congress.
“The signatures not only meant that majority of congressmen will vote for Congressman Martin as Speaker on July 22. These congressmen are committed in gathering signatures for Congressman Martin to ensure hisoverwhelming victory in the opening of Congress,” said Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who along with Defensor, served as chief of staff of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The three veteran legislators expressed confidence that President Duterte, upon confirming the final tally of signatures in Romualdez’s favor, will welcome or even endorse the ascension of the Leyte lawmaker to the top House post.
“Right now, the President is sticking to his position not to interfere in the speakership. But I believe that he will eventually change his position and endorse Congressman Martin as Speaker once he sees the final tally in the manifesto of support,” said Defensor.
On Thursday, Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said that Cayetano is being backed by a senior Cabinet official. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez has denied he is that official.
Romualdez said conscience vote should prevail in choosing the candidate for the highest top post.
“Only a unified Congress, with a speaker chosen freely by its members, can help President Duterte realize his vision of lifting our people out of poverty through sustained economic growth.
“On these points, I commit myself to the ideals spelled out by the Duterte Coalition in its statement.” With Macon Ramos-AranetaREAD: Romualdez best bet—pollREAD: 8 aspire for Speaker postREAD: ‘Pulong’ eyes Speaker postREAD: Speakership brawl looms
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