MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has spoken. It’s Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano that he wants to sit as speaker of the House of Representatives at the opening of the 18th Congress on July 22.
After weeks of trying to keep his hands off the issue, Duterte announced his choice last night before a gathering of newly appointed officials at Malacañang.
His announcement ended weeks of wrangling among his Congress allies over who should occupy the top House seat and blaze the trail for his legislative agenda.
While Duterte’s choice of Cayetano will still be subjected to a House vote on July 22, a presidential endorsement traditionally goes unchallenged in a chamber dominated by supporters.
“Your speaker will be Alan Peter Cayetano. He shares the term with Lord Velasco,” said Duterte, referring to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
“All glory and praise be to God,” Cayetano posted in his Facebook account. He called himself a “Speaker na tapat (trustworthy speaker)” with “mas malakas na boses sa Kongreso (a louder voice in Congress).”
“We thank him for the announcement that he has made. We want the House to be the Congress of the people,” Cayetano said, referring to Duterte. “Good governance will always come first.”
Earlier, Cayetano claimed agreeing to serve as speaker for 15 months and be succeeded by Velasco for 21 months. Cayetano belongs to the Nacionalista Party while Velasco had the endorsement of the President’s own party, PDP-Laban.
Duterte said he had tried to distance himself from the speakership row but felt he had to intervene as the issue dragged on.
He said he wants another ally and contender for the speakership post, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, to be the next majority leader.
“I tried to distance myself from the… But apparently I said it’s time that I talk. So ganun ho ang ano – that’s the setup,” the President said after emerging from a meeting with the three contenders at Malacañang.
The Chief Executive lamented that the issue has created “so much uncertainty.”
“Velasco, kung buhay pa siya (if he is still alive),” would take over the speaker post after an agreed period, Duterte said.
Work on Cha-cha now
In remarks at the oath-taking of new officials, Duterte also directed his allies to speed up efforts to change the Constitution – before he ends his six-year term.
“If you want to change the Constitution, do it now habang buhay pa ako (while I’m still alive),” Duterte said.
Come July 22, the President is expected to get his wish without having to worry about a possible leadership coup like the one initiated by his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio that resulted in the ouster of Pantaleon Alvarez as speaker and his replacement by Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Cayetano’s Nacionalista Party is led by former Senate president and Vistaland Group chairman Manuel Villar.
Sara’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago had endorsed the speakership bid of Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab. Presidential son Davao Rep. Paolo Duterte had initially declared his intention to join the fray but was prevailed upon by his father to withdraw.
PDP-Laban president Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III welcomed the development even if the party had proposed a different term sharing scheme to President Duterte. Pimentel described Duterte’s term sharing as a “good proposal.”
“We made our own term sharing proposal in order to resolve the issue of House speaker. But if the President himself has resolved the issue, then great!” the senator told reporters.
He did not reveal the party’s term-sharing proposal but presumably it had Velasco getting the first term.
Party spokesman Ronwald Munsayac said the party leadership would have a meeting to discuss the latest development.
“But offhand, we fully respect the decision and wisdom of our party chairman, President Duterte. The PDP-Laban is still the majority party in Congress and will rigorously push for the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration,” he said.
Presidential spokesman and chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the President had to break the impasse among his allies to preserve unity.
“Since the election of the speaker has resulted in a bitter and fractious rivalry that threatens the break-up of political allies, the President, to save the unity of the alliance and avert its fragmentation, obliged to the request of the three candidates,” Panelo said last night.
He said the three candidates for speakership “agree(d) to respect the choice of PRRD,” referring to Duterte by his presidential initials.
“It’s Alan Cayetano as the speaker in the first 15 months, then the next 21 months, the speaker will be Lord Allan Velasco, with Martin Romualdez as the majority floor leader,” Panelo said.
Panelo said the three lawmakers had sought the assistance of the President in resolving the speakership issue. – With Edith Regalado, Delon Porcalla