MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, credited for orchestrating last year’s House coup that toppled its leader, has emerged as a major power broker in the search for the next speaker.
Congressmen backing the leadership bid of incoming Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez will “have to go back to the drawing board” if Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio endorses another candidate, said Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.
"Anak s'ya ng presidente, maganda ang reputation saka maverick with a terrific right hook,” he said in jest, recalling the time when the daughter punched a court sheriff in Davao.
(She's the President's daughter, with a good reputation, maverick with a terrific right hook.)
Duterte-Carpio earlier denied supporting Romualdez for speaker, saying she had raised his hand during a Tacloban campaign only because he was supportive of her father.
Duterte-Carpio said she did the same during the campaign for Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, another major contender for speaker.
“Wala syang ine-endorse officially pero 'di mo maialis sa amin na magsuspetsa na baka ito ang tulungan,” Suarez told ABS-CBN News, describing the daughter as a “kingmaker.”
(She has not endorsed anyone officially but we can't help but suspect that she's supporting someone.)
In July last year, Duterte-Carpio worked behind the scenes with congressmen to oust then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in a dramatic twist to her father’s scheduled State of the Nation Address.
Alvarez is again among the contenders for the next speaker, having won a second term in Davao del Norte’s first district under the ruling PDP-Laban party.
But last week, Duterte-Carpio rejected Alvarez’s supposed reconciliation offer, describing him as “a very dangerous, Machiavellian individual who does not deserve peace.”
Suarez said the statement could make it difficult for Alvarez to regain the speakership, citing Duterte-Carpio’s strong following in the lower house.
“Medyo mabigat 'yun, mabigat 'yun,” the outgoing minority leader said.
(That's quite a big deal. That's big.)
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Suarez said his group could muster enough numbers to secure the speakership for Romualdez, if the president would play neutral.
The 18th Congress is set to convene in July, with Duterte’s “super majority” expected to push the rest of his legislative agenda, including more tax reforms and a shift to federalism.
As of last week, Suarez claimed that at least 126 congressmen had committed to support Romualdez.
But Suarez said his group would have to “go back to our drawing board and come up with another strategy” if Duterte-Carpio pushed for a different speaker.
“If I were the mayor... it will be better na sabihin na lang n'ya na let the members decide among themselves.”
Assuming the race for speaker is kept wide open, Suarez said Romualdez would enjoy the advantage of having outgoing Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s support.
Romualdez is the president of Arroyo’s former party Lakas-CMD.
“Marami pa rin naman ang following ng outgoing speaker and former president GMA,” Suarez said.
(The outgoing speaker and former president GMA still has quite a following.)
“It would be a threatening number for other candidates.”
Also vying for speaker is former Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who regained a congressional seat in Taguig in the May 13 elections.
Cayetano, Duterte’s runningmate in 2016, had made his ambition known as early as October last year when he filed his certificate of candidacy.
Like Alvarez, Cayetano was also criticized last week by the president’s daughter.
Cayetano, she alleged, had made a “veiled threat” that the administration coalition might “break up” and affect the 2022 presidential election, if she backed Velasco for speaker.
Suarez said Cayetano should have appealed for support and to be given a chance to become speaker.
“Parang kina-capitalize n'ya yung s'ya 'yung vice presidential candidate, nagsakripisyo s'ya,” Suarez said.
(He's capitalizing on his sacrifice when he ran for vice president.)
“Well, that’s the fortune of politics. It’s not necessary that what you want, you’ll get so you have to work for it.”