MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he isn't making a "concrete" endorsement in the race for the House Speakership.
"Ang commitment ko talaga ayaw ko magsama ang loob sa akin . . . Semblance of a knowledge prior, but I never gave any concrete yes," Duterte told reporters at the oath-taking of Senator-elect Bong Go in Malacañang.
The President also apologized to the candidates for the House top post, saying he doesn't want to meddle in the contest.
"I’m telling each and every one of them I am sorry. I am very sorry I could not be of any help. I will not secretly pass any order. ’Pag sinabi ko ’yan, ’yan na ’yan," Duterte said.
He confirmed that a term-sharing deal had been finalized between Taguig Pateros Representative-Elect Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco, who are vying for the Speakership.
But Velasco backed out at the last minute, the President said.
"Gusto ni Cayetano mauna siya, but he will just stay there for 15 months. Velasco can have the other half, 21 months. Ganu'n ang proposal. Pumayag na si Cayetano, si Velasco mukhang last minute nag-back out," Duterte said.
Velasco, in a statement, said Duterte's decision to leave the Speakership choice to lawmakers "never mentioned a term sharing" for the post.
"There is a strong consensus among majority members of the House of Representatives during my series of consultation with them that term-sharing is divisive and will only impede the passage of important pieces of legislation that this administration needs to fulfill its mandate and promise to the people," Velasco said, adding that he was thankful to the ruling party PDP-Laban for its endorsement.
"I am ready to take on the task as I have been ready since the SONA day of 2018. I commit to promote unity in the House, push for the agenda of the Duterte administration and serve our country to the best of my abilities."
Duterte earlier said he is “comfortable” to work with any lawmaker who would secure the post given that the top contenders are all allied with the administration.
He said he would rather let outgoing Speaker Gloria Arroyo pick her successor between Velasco, Cayetano and Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez.