By Ben Rosario
Hugpong ng Pagbabago chairperson and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s bet for speaker of the House of Representatives can count on the solid support of Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) congressmen in the 18th Congress.
NPC Secretary General and former Batangas Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza admitted that the presidential daughter had indeed requested NPC’s support for the speakership bid of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of PDP-Laban.
“There are still ongoing talks with our members regarding this issue but so far, mukhang marami ang may gusto kay Cong Lord. He is a member of the PDP-Laban, the party of the president,” said Mendoza.
He said the NPC leadership, under Senate President Vicente Sotto III, is expected to call a meeting to discuss it. The party has at least 28 winning congressmen and six partylist allies.
Mendoza said Velasco’s win will spell success in the passage of the remaining legislative agenda of the Duterte administration.
“If he wins, he will be able to deliver, with the support of the members of the majority of Congress in which the NPC belongs, the legislative agenda of the president,” the former House member said.
Earlier, Mayor Duterte criticized the camps of Velasco’s rivals for the speakership, fueling speculations that she was going all out for her bet for the House leadership.
The HNP chairperson rejected the hand of reconciliation offered by former speaker and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, who will contest the speakership nomination against fellow PDP-Laban member, Velasco.
PDP-Laban was expected to meet last night to take up the speakership bid that will have Alvarez, Velasco and Pampanga Rep. Dong Gonzales as possible party candidates.
Immediately after leading a huge victory for PDP-laban bets in Davao del Norte, Alvarez said he will continue to seek a renewal of friendship with President Duterte’s daughter.
“Now that elections are over, I offer my hand in peace to heal our deep and divisive wounds. Borrowing the words of a statesman from an era long past,” Alvarez said in a statement.
However, Mayor Duterte, who is believed to be behind Alvarez’s ouster as speaker, was in no mood to accept the gesture of reconciliation.
“Meanwhile, I have no intention of accepting Rep. Bebot Alvarez’s offer of reconciliation because the offer was deceiving and utterly lacked sincerity,” Duterte said.
Duterte added: “Unknown to him, he was surreptitiously videotaped when he threatened, after his win in the recent elections in Davao del Norte, “Ipapahiya ko si Sara.” ( I will embarrass Sara).
According to her, the former Speaker “was and he remains to be a very dangerous, Machiavellian individual who does not deserve peace.”
She also belied claims made by Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay that she has “recommended” newly-elected Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez to replace former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Nacionalista Party bet for speaker former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was also criticized by the lady mayor.
Mayor Duterte accused Cayetano of throwing her a “veiled threat” when the next Taguig congressman visited Davao City “sometime last year.”
“He, however, came with a veiled threat, that if I endorse Rep. Velasco for Speaker, I would break up the ‘group’. And this, he said, will affect the presidential elections of 2022,” she revealed.
In the statement, Duterte said she was “not the correct person to endorse” who the next speaker should be.
“I only have a personal bet but do not intend to influence Congress,” she said.
In her previous statements to the media, the HNP leader said the newly-formed regional political party will support whoever will help guarantee that President Rodrigo Duterte’s remaining legislative agenda are passed in Congress.
In campaign rally held in Tacloban City during the senatorial campaign period, Duterte called Romualdez the next speaker.
At the next campaign stop in Bohol, she raised the hand of Velasco as she called him the next House leader.
In between sorties, Duterte would tell media interviews that other congressmen allied to Malacanang will be backed.
She mentioned Rep. Ronaldo Zamora among them although the San Juan solon has yet to declare interest for the post.
But political pundits are aware that Mayor Duterte’s declarations were mere political flattery that may not be taken seriously,
“If I did raise his hand during the HNP rally in Tacloban, I did so because he, just like Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, is supportive of the reform agenda of President Duterte,” her statement read as she chided Pichay for claiming that she had endorsed Romualdez.
She said Cayetano told the truth when he claimed that he did not ask her for backing for speaker when they had the occasion to talk last year.
“The question on the interest of Cong-elect Paolo Duterte to vie for Speaker of the HOR should best be addressed by our father because he is the President and our patriarch,” she said.