Choice for speaker still House privilege

Published July 9, 2019, 1:51 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Philippine News Agency

Despite his endorsement, President Duterte on Monday night said that it was still the privilege of the House of Representatives to elect the next speaker.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the mass oath taking of newly appointed government officials at the Malacañan Palace on July 8, 2019. ALFRED FRIAS/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Duterte earlier announced his endorsement of Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as the next speakers of the House of Representatives under a term-sharing agreement.

He said Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, also a House speaker bet, would be the next Majority Leader in the lower chamber.

“That is their privilege actually. I was just trying to end the impasse. Nobody was sure to vote for whom and they kept on asking ano ‘yung – sino ‘yung kandidato ni Presidente (who’s the President’s candidate)?” Duterte said in a chance interview with reporters after the oath-taking of newly appointed officials in Malacañan Palace.

The chief executive explained that as much as he wanted to distance himself from having to select who to endorse, he decided it was time for him to speak out since there was no clear concession yet.

“I shied away and said na, ‘Iyan oh.’ (There). If you can resolve the matter comfortably between you, do it. I hate to intrude. But apparently, considering what happened in the last few days, and malapit na ang (the next session is about to begin) session, sabi ko na my statement would really be, ‘It’s time for me to talk,’” Duterte said.

Duterte, meanwhile, bared his reason for choosing to endorse Cayetano, who will serve as speaker in the first 15 months, and Velasco, who will be speaker during the next 21 months.

He said Cayetano, who was his running mate in the 2016 national elections, expressed his desire to be House speaker during the mid-term polls.

“I have been very clear on that na during the campaign, sabi niya kung manalo siya, gusto niya mag-speaker (If he wins, he wants to be speaker). He was the first one at least to intimate to me that – nagpasa na gusto (expressed his desire),” Duterte said.
He explained that aside from Cayetano, two other allies, Velasco and Romualdez also approached him with the same concern.

“Then Lord, that was during the campaign. After the campaign, pumasok ito si Martin Romualdez (Martin Romualdez entered), also a supporter of mine,” Duterte said.

“So I promised him. Then Lord (Velasco), sabi ko (I said), ‘Let us see.’ Kay Romualdez sabi ko (I said), ‘Let us see what develops,’” he added.

Duterte said that since there were three people vying for the speakership post, he decided it was time for him to step in.

“Pagka ganito (When it’s like this), it’s time for me to talk. I will insist na kung anong ‘yung pinag-usapan natin, ‘yon ang sundin natin (whatever it is we talked about, that’s what we follow),” Duterte said.

He also pointed out that the term-sharing agreement was what was “agreed upon” to do away with conflict.

Meanwhile, he said he did not endorse Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab because he did not get to meet him.

“I did not talk to him. Ang nakausap ko lang si Martin, si Lord, pati si Cayetano (I only spoke to Martin, Lord and Cayetano),” Duterte said.

Ungab is being endorsed by Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), a regional party co-founded by the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte.

Duterte defended his decision to step in the House speakership race, noting that it should not be described as “interference” because it did not involve meddling in the legislative process.

“It has nothing to do with the independence of the legislative body. Up to that point, it’s all politics. But interfering in the legislation and in the workings of the Lower House,ibang istorya ‘yon (that’s another story),” Duterte said.

“You are not interfering because we are choosing only the leaders. Now, when they begin to work and do their task, and you interfere, that’s the time that there is – we can hear the complaints,” he added.