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Scramble is on for Congress leadership

04 June 2019

Speakership vote for sale?


The elections may be over, but the battle continues in the House of Representatives where Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be leaving her post vacant when she convenes the body for the last time on June 8.

While the senators expect Senate President Vicente Sotto to retain his position, the departure of Macapagal-Arroyo has left a vacuum that has sent ambitions soaring among emerging leaders in the lower house.

The speakership is disputed in a four-way scramble among Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez and Taguig 1st District Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano.

Each has his own story to tell.


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Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco cited his loyalty to the President and his daughter as his advantage over his closest competitor, Romualdez. “The difference between me and Martin (Romualdez), I’m a loyal friend to the President and (Davao City) Mayor Inday (Sara Duterte-Carpio),” he said in an ABS CBN News Channel interview.

As a result, he said, “I can talk directly to the President when it comes to the problems of the House.”

But while Velasco counts on the support of the Dutertes, Romualdez is said to have secured the support of some 126 House members.

“I don’t know whether the other candidates have circularized a manifesto of support. Ang alam ko, ang meron lang nakakuha ng ganoon karaming endorsement is congressman Martin Romualdez as of now,” House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said.

But Romualdez cannot be too sure of this support.

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Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. explained: “… All parties have common denominator. Kung sino ang i-annoint ni President Duterte, ‘yun ang naririnig ko ha, dun pupunta ang majority.”

He recounted that former Davao 1st District Rep. and appointed Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles had earned the support of around 140 lawmakers at the start of the 17th Congress but eventually gave way to Duterte’s choice, Alvarez.

President Duterte, who said he had talked with the four contenders,  asserted: “Hindi ako nagbigay ng commitment.”

In any case, Alvarez said, Duterte’s support will not be enough.

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Top contenders are offering P500,000 to P1 million per vote to each of the 300 incoming House er Saramembers, for a total of P150 to P300 million, he said.

Although he did not identify them in a televised interview, he vouched: “That, sadly, is what’s going on in the Lower House.”

Presidential daughter Sara inevitably figures in the discussion, having endorsed Velasco, calling his Speaker in one of her speeches. She is also being rumored to be aming for the presidency itself. After all, she was also responsible for getting enough votes for former president Arroyo to topple Alvarez.

Which was why Cayetano was reported to have come “with a veiled threat” that he would leave the administration coalition or “break up the ‘group’” if she would endorse Velasco.

“Whenever I hear things like that I just put it in a box and move on,” Duterte-Carpio told INQUIRER.net. She added that she was puzzled why Cayetano had to threaten her.

“Naisip ko nga bakit niya ako sinabihan ng ganun. Baka dahil siguro alam niya kaibigan ko si Cong Velasco and Cong Martin Romualdez. Pero kaibigan ko din naman si Mayor Lani Cayetano (his wife), she has helped TM and HNP.”

Two names have been eliminated from the list: Loren Legarda, who said she does not aspire to be speaker, and presidential son Paolo “Polong” Duterte.

President Duterte himself ruled out Paolo, saying he would resign if his son ran foir speakership. "Itong si Paolo, sabihin ko sa kanya if you run for speakership, let me know. Kasi kung tatakbo ka magreresign ako kasi marami na tayo. Andiyan yung kapatid mo mayor,"  he said.

To which the son answered: "I did not say I want to be Speaker... May nagkamali na naman bulong sa tenga mo Mr. President."

Over at the Senate, where a simple majority decides the presidency, Sotto said he has the support of at least 15 or 16 of the 24 senators. Although he did not identify them, the other nine may be the incoming senators of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago.

“Wala naman kaming iniisip na ipalit. Masaya naman kami sa leadership ni Tito Sotto.  Most of us agreed na si Tito Sen pa rin ang Senate president,” said Sen. Manny Pacqiuao, who had collected 14 signatures to support Sotto's extension.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, who is rumored to be angling for the post, has refused to sign, telling Pacquiao to fix the disputes over committee chairmanships first.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told the Inquirer only 12 incumbent senators are still supportive of Sotto,

 “We had a meeting yesterday, there’s 11 plus Senator Villar, 12, that is fully supportive of the Senate President,” Zubiri said.

Being contested are the chairmanships of the various committees, he added.

Pacquiao said: “Maliit na gusot  na lang ito,  maso-solve din yan kasi kami-kami lang din naman.”

He said at least one committee is beung eyed by three senators.
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