Two main political groups each led by a Duterte have united in one of the most significant twists thus far in the heated battle for the House leadership.
HnP and HTL described the Duterte Coalition as a strategic partnership of dynamic public servants
The consolidation of forces was an apparent move to create a single bloc that would support a House candidate.
In a joint statement, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) and Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod (HTL) said they are forming the “Duterte Coalition.”
The coalition invited rivals for the top House post Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez to join in.
All three candidates are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had refused to back any candidate saying all are his friends.
HnP is a regional party co-founded by Mayor Sara Duterte, while HTL is a local political organization founded by the President when he was mayor of Davao City and which is now led by his eldest son, Rep. Paolo Duterte.
HnP and HTL described the Duterte Coalition as a strategic partnership of dynamic public servants “committed to institute governance and development reforms that are necessary for the Philippines to secure its rightful place in the world stage of nations, particularly in the Southeast Asian region.”
“We have created the Duterte Coalition and we wish to invite everyone to join this group of lawmakers who believe in positive change,” the statement said.
The forming of the coalition came days after HnP endorsed the candidacy of Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab for Speaker.
Initially, the Duterte Coalition said its current membership is composed of Rep. Paolo Duterte, Rep. Isidro Ungab, Rep. Vincent Garcia, Rep. Corazon Malanyaon, Rep. Manuel Zamora, Rep. Lorna Bautista, Rep. Claudine Bautista, Rep. Sandro Gonzales and Rep. Anton Lopez.
Cabinet stay clear
The coalition also chastised various unnamed Cabinet members for actively lobbying their respective candidates for Speaker.
“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,” the coalition said.
“Let us draw the line to define the independence of the Executive and the Legislative branches of the government. We shall not serve one interest, we will work for all Filipinos,” it said.
“It has come to our attention that certain 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,” the statement read.
“Congressmen and Congresswomen are elected and serve a mandate with an authority direct from the people. These lawmakers are the only rightful electorate for their leader,” the statement read.
The group, however, did not name the Cabinet members it is referring to or their aim but Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said Mr. Duterte was ‘pressured’ by eight members of the Cabinet who insisted on term sharing in the House leadership.
The veteran lawmaker revealed that Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar and six more members of the Cabinet was pushing for term-sharing as proposed by Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano.
In a radio interview, Atienza said that the Cabinet members’ meddling is already “immoral and bordering on illegal.”
“That is immoral and bordering on illegal because the Cabinet should not meddle in the selection of the House Speaker,” said Atienza. “It is not good for the Cabinet to meddle in choosing a Speaker.”
Dominguez is backing Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano’s speakership bid, according to Atienza.
The Finance secretary, however, denied Atienza’s claims, saying that his department “does not interfere with the internal affairs of the legislative branch.”
“The DOF and attached bureaus and agencies have submitted only its budget request to the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) for consolidation and approval of the President,” said Dominguez in a statement.
“Its budget is one of the smaller departments and certainly does not contain any ‘insertions’, whatever that term means,” he added.
Atienza, meantime, said he believes that his “good friend” Dominguez did not place insertions in the budget, but this does not mean that the Finance chief did not meddle in the Speakership race.
To recall, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco earlier denied that he agreed to share the post with Cayetano, shortly after ruling PDP-Laban endorsed him for Speaker.
Atienza, who belongs to the minority bloc in the 17th Congress, said term sharing was also unacceptable for him.
“There would suddenly be a new Speaker because there were talks? Who were involved in those talks? Did House members vote?” said Atienza. “We should have the freedom to vote for a Speaker and that is who we would accept. Not just because the Cabinet asked for favors and the president meddled.”
with Elmer N. Manuel