MANILA- If a fellowship dinner will be the basis of support for the speakership race, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco would be the lead contender to be the 4th highest official of the country.
As many as 130 congressmen attended Tuesday night a fellowship dinner hosted by the President's son, Davao City Representative-elect Paolo Duterte at the Malacañang Palace.
The younger Duterte reportedly invited lawmakers from the ruling PDP-Laban party, Nationalist People's Coalition, and party-list coalition neophytes, a source told ABS-CBN News.
President Rodrigo Duterte also visited the dinner and stayed until 3:30 a.m., the source said.
Videos obtained by ABS-CBN News showed the President singing during the dinner.
While Malacañang has insisted that Duterte will not interfere in the speakership race, the source said "PRRD asked until June 28 to say his preferred speaker but all hints and body language point to Lord Velasco.”
Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales, who is also eyeing the House leadership, was also present at the Palace dinner.
Meanwhile, the President's losing running mate in the 2016 elections, Alan Peter Cayetano, also hosted his own fellowship dinner in Clark, Pampanga with only around 50 lawmakers attending.
Cayetano, the incoming Taguig City representative, declined to gauge his level of support among congressmen even as he doused claims by his rivals that they may already have the numbers to secure the House Speakership.
“Anyone who tells you any numbers, that's hazy math dahil matagal pa (the fight is still long)," he said.
Other aspirants for the Speaker post meanwhile were absent from both dinners on Tuesday namely Leyte Rep. Elect Martin Romualdez, and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
Romualdez belongs to the Lakas-CMD party which has 11 congressmen in the 18th Congress while Cayetano belongs to the Nacionalista Party which has about 40 members.
The 25-strong National Unity Party had previously announced support for Cayetano.
On the other hand, Alvarez, Gonzales, Velasco all belong to PDP-Laban which has over 80 members.
Last week, PDP-Laban leaders dined with the 3 at the house of Senator Manny Pacquiao with Senator Koko Pimentel to decide on a common candidate for the PDP—but before he left for the US last week, Pacquiao said they are leaving the matter to the President.
Pacquiao said he will, however, insist that the Speaker be from the ruling party.
The race to be the 26th Speaker of the House has been the most competitive in recent memory since the President won't yet name a preferred Speaker, which wasn’t the case in previous congresses when congressmen voted for the President's choice.