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Vexed Polong threatens run

Hananeel Bordey

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Exasperated with divisive politics amid Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano’s ‘obsession’ with the so-called term-sharing for the Speakership, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte indicated yesterday that he may just join the race.

In a statement, Duterte, the eldest of the President, said he has no interest in the position but that he “changed his heart because of talks of ‘term sharing’ being obsessively pushed by Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano.”

“The house is divided, I might be able to help unite it. We were all elected. If term sharing will be insisted, everybody should be entitled to term sharing,” Duterte said.

The numbers in the House for the leadership battle is on the side of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.

“We are not talking about two persons here. We are talking about our beloved country. It is not about speakership alone, but who is the right person to unite congress and I hope those running for the speakership stop influencing the Cabinet,” Paolo added.

Cayetano reportedly is soliciting help from Cabinet members to back his term-sharing proposal.

The numbers in the House for the leadership battle is on the side of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as four major blocs, including the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), backed his candidacy.

The 4 blocs comprised 180 House members which is more than the 50 percent plus one vote needed by a candidate to prevail based on the estimate of Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel who is backing Velasco.

The House blocs backing Velasco said he is the “best choice” to lead the House “given his experience, competence, and strong camaraderie” with legislators.

The manifesto was signed by PDP through Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr, party national executive vice president; Nationalist People’s Coalition through Rizal Rep. John Duavit and Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian and the Partylist bloc represented by 1-Pacman Rep. Michael Romero.

The manifesto was signed after the President said he would not endorse any candidate for Speaker and would leave the decision to legislators.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter, also made clear last May her support to Velasco when she asked the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) to back Velasco.
NPC Secretary General Aurelio “Dong” Mendoza said “Mayor Sara reached out to NPC to help support Congressman Lord Velasco’s bid for Speakership.”

Mendoza said the party was backing Velasco since the latter was a partymate of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Last March, Mayor Duterte also named Velasco as the next Speaker. “This one…I will introduce to you the next Speaker of the House, Marinduque Rep. Lord Velasco,” she said at a campaign rally in Tagbilaran City.

She had called Velasco her bet for the speakership in November.

Velasco gets PDP

The ruling PDP, through Sen. Manny Pacquiao, also endorsed Velasco.

“I am therefore announcing the endorsement and support of PDP Laban for Congressman Lord Allan Velasco as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the full term of the 18th Congress,” he said.

Pacquiao said majority of the party members have signed a manifesto in support of Velasco.

“At least majority of PDP supports Lord Velasco as the new Speaker,” Pacquiao said.

The manifesto highlighted that Velasco possesses the leadership qualities to “steer and unite” the House in the passage of “crucial legislative reforms” in support of the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte in order to “safeguard the country’s economic gains and social progress.”

“We believe that Representative Lord Allan Jay Velasco is the best choice to lead the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress given his experience, competence, and strong camaraderie with his colleagues in the House of Representatives,” the manifesto read.

Regional term split

To further drive his point, Rep. Duterte said that if term-sharing is insisted it would be best that terms shared for legislators from Mindanao, Visayas, Luzon and the partylist groups.

“I will ask the Visayas bloc to elect their speaker for their term share and so with the Mindanao bloc and the partylist coalition,” Duterte said.

Not only the members of the House of Representatives were stunned by Paolo’s decision but also his sister, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

“I was told. It was a surprise,” Sara told the Daily Tribune when asked if she was aware of Paolo’s decision.

However, the presidential daughter refused to give further comments when asked if she will support his speakership bid.

Recently-appointed executive vice president of PDP, Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., said in a phone interview with House reporters that he is sure that all other candidates will withdraw their bid if Paolo is really serious about it.

For the partylist coalition, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin told House reporters that the speakership race has a long way to go as there are still 20 days before the House leader is known.

Garbin said the younger Duterte is entitled to run for any post in the House as he is an incoming representative but being a presidential son is not the most important factor in considering him as speaker.

The lawmaker said that it is the integrity, compassion for the constituents and skill to lead the 304-man chamber, who are coming from different backgrounds and share different ideologies, into one common agenda which is to legislate the program of the president.

“We have 20 days to go before SoNA (State of the Nation Address). We have lots of time to study this thoroughly,” Garbin said.

Arm twisting

Paolo has not given his final word on his dare and his statement was meant to address Cayetano’s moves in pushing for term-sharing.

Velasco consistently denied that they had a formal agreement in the 15-21-month sharing of leadership.

Cayetano has also dragged Velasco’s wife, Wen Velasco, in the row saying that Velasco was being supported by San Miguel Corporation President Ramon Ang.

Ang, in a statement yesterday, denied the reports and said he was not backing any contender for the Speakership.

“That is untrue. I know all of them, but I’m not supporting anyone in particular,” said Ang in a statement, adding that he had “never exerted influence or asked for political favors.”

“In fact, he himself can attest to this because he has sought my help many times,” said Ang referring to Cayetano.

Previously, President Duterte said he will resign if his eldest son will insist on contenting the post.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said if ever the younger Duterte makes good his intention to gun for the House leadership, it is possible the Chief Executive will change his mind about an earlier threat to step down.

“A person (like the President), when he says something, that’s serious unless there are circumstances that will compel him to alter his stand. For now, that’s what he said. We don’t know yet what the result will be,” he said.

“That’s between the father and the son,” concluded the official.

With Kristina Maralit

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