Duterte still hands off speakership race even as PDP backs Velasco

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2019 12:48 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte poses for a photo with Senator-elect Christopher "Bong" Go and speakership contenders Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, and incoming Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano. Photo from Go's Facebook page

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is keeping his hands off the House Speakership race even as his political party PDP-Laban endorsed Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco for the post on Wednesday.

Duterte, who earlier said he would no longer endorse a candidate for Speaker, is “comfortable” to work with any lawmaker who would secure the post given that the top contenders are all allied with the administration, Malacañang said.

“The Chief Executive would rather focus on the business of governance rather than play politics and ruffle the feelings of those outside of his preferred choice,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

“President Duterte is confident that the next Lower House leader would shepherd his legislative agenda for the nation's best interest and the people's general welfare,” he said.

Top contenders for the speakership are Velasco, Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez, and Taguig Pateros Representative-elect Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's defeated running mate in the 2016 elections. 

Majority of PDP-Laban lawmakers signed a manifesto of support for Velasco's bid for Speakership according to party stalwart Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who announced their endorsement of the Marinduque lawmaker.

Panelo earlier said congressmen are "knowledgeable" enough to choose their leader and need not wait for Duterte's endorsement for the next Speaker.

“The Palace is therefore optimistic that the members of Congress know and will vote for the candidate whom they think and believe can give them excellent stewardship in legislating policies and measures that will deliver positive and genuine change for our people,” he said.

Duterte earlier said he would not meddle in the speakership race, citing separation of powers.