By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte is leaving to congressmen the selection of the next House speaker after he and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the incumbent Speaker, refused to make the decision for the lawmakers.
The President said members of the House of Representatives should “sort out” the speakership issue among themselves, adding he was ready to work with anyone as long as he is a Filipino.
“Sabi ko kayo na lang, ako ang susunod sa inyo. Bakit ilagay ninyo sa akin ang problema? Maski sino ang Speaker diyan, komportable ako. Basta Pilipino lang [I said, you make the decision and I will follow. Why will you pass the problem to me? I am comfortable with any Speaker there as long as he is Filipino],” he said during the oath-taking of newly elected government officials in Malacañang.
“You have to decide. You can do it by party affiliation… Huwag na lang ako isali ninyo. Tutal [Do not drag me there. Besides] I never bothered you with my stuff. Hindi naman nagpunta doon sa inyo doon, sino ang Secretary, sino ang…wala man. Wala man ako ginawang ganun. Bakit ninyo gagawin sa akin ngayon? [I did not go to your place and ask you about the next Secretary, nothing. I’ve not done such thing. So why would you do that to me now?],” he added.
At present, the four contenders for House speaker are Taguig-Pateros Representative-elect Alan Peter Cayetano, Marinduque re-elected Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, re-elected Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, and Representative-elect Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez. All of them are allies of the President.
Duterte admitted that he asked House Speaker Arroyo to “spare him the agony of choosing” among the contenders for the top House post, but she declined to make the decision. He even joked about sending Arroyo back to jail if she refuses to select her successor.
The topic of the next House Speaker was discussed during Hugpong’s victory party in Makati last Monday night.
“Sabi ko, ikaw na mamili ng Speaker… hindi ako nagbobola (You select the next speaker, I told her… I’m not kidding). I will ask a favor from you. Huwag mo na ako bigyan ng sakit ng loob (Don’t give me a problem), they are all my friends. I don’t want to hurt anybody,” he said.
Arroyo, however, refused to meddle in the selection of the next House Speaker.
With his latest decision not to interfere, Duterte urged the lawmakers to discuss the speakership race among themselves. “Mag-usap kayo uli. Bahala kayo sa buhay sa inyo [You discuss it among yourselves again. You’re in charge of your lives],” he said.
Earlier, Malacañang said lawmakers ought not to wait for President Duterte’s possible preference for the next speaker of the House of Representatives. He said they were supposed to be “knowledgeable” about the candidates vying for the top House post.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the President may or may not express his preferred House Speaker, adding he already said, “May the best man win.” In case Duterte makes his preference known, he said it does not mean he was interfering in the affairs of the House.