By Ben Rosario
Two senior administration lawmakers eyeing the speakership joined the more than 125 neophyte congressmen in a dinner reception attended by President Rodrigo Duterte, thus, raising speculations that the two now enjoy the inside track in the race for the top post of the House of Representatives.
Reps. Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque and Aurelio Gonzales of Pampanga were among the non-neophytes to be invited to the reception reportedly hosted by Duterte’s eldest son, Paolo Duterte who won a congressional seat in Davao City.
Their presence in the event raised speculation that they have an edge of Palace endorsement for speaker compared to the other three candidates for the Lower House top post.
“I am deeply honored to be part of this welcome dinner and to speak on behalf of presidential son and Davao City Representative-elect Paolo Duterte, who organized the event for the newly-elected lawmakers,” Velasco said in a statement.
The party was held on Tuesday night at the Malago Lounge in Malacañang Park.
“It was a good opportunity for them (neophyte solons) to meet the President up close and personal, “said Velasco.
He added: “We want to foster camaraderie among the incoming members of the 18th Congress so we can work harmoniously and forward our legislative agenda, as well as the administration’s priority for the next three years, in order to uplift the lives of the Filipino people and sustain the country’s economic growth.”
Gonzales was also spotted in the dinner. He was recently elected vice president of PDP-Laban.
1Pacman Partylist Rep. Michael Romero led the neophyte partylist congressmen who attended the party. He is currently the president of the Party Coalition Foundation Inc., the second largest political bloc in the Lower House.
Romero and 54 other members of the PCFI were set to meet last night in Quezon City to vote on their choice for speaker of the Lower House.
To be considered by the formidable partylist organization are the candidacies of Representatives-elect Martin Romualdez (Lakas, Leyte); Alan Peter Cayetano (NP, Taguig City); Velasco and Gonzales.
The four speakership hopefuls have conferred with Romero and his group to discuss their respective programs for partylist congressmen and legislative agenda in the coming 18th Congress.
Former speaker and re-elected Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez was expected to present his program prior to the nomination to be conducted last night at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City.