Speakership race shapes up as 4 lawmakers eye top House post

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Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Jay Velasco, Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez, Taguig Representative-elect Alan Peter Cayetano, and Davao del Norte 1st District Representative-elect Pantaleon Alvarez

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — The race for the next House Speaker is shaping up as a formidable fight.

At least four lawmakers are eyeing to replace former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is now on her third and last term.

They are Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Jay Velasco, Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez, Taguig Representative-elect Alan Peter Cayetano, and Davao del Norte 1st District Representative-elect Pantaleon Alvarez, who once held the position.

Romualdez, Cayetano, and Alvarez have confirmed they will join the race when the 18th Congress opens in July.

"I'm definitely running for speaker... I will give it a try," Alvarez said. He became Speaker in 2016, but was replaced by Arroyo in July last year during the State of the Nation Address.

Cayetano, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte and former Foreign Affairs secretary, even included the speakership bid in his campaign, with posters introducing him as "Speaker na tapat" (honest speaker.)

PDP-Laban's bet

Re-elected Senator Koko Pimentel, president of PDP-Laban, said the ruling party will choose who among Alvarez, Velasco, and Pampanga Representative Dong Gonzales will join the speakership race.

Pimentel warned that PDP-Laban members who don't abide by the decision will be kicked out.

"We will have rules on how to choose, kung sino mapili. Kung merong magrerebelde, we have to kick them out of the party," Pimentel said.

Romualdez, a stalwart of Arroyo's former party, Lakas-CMD, said he has in talks with lawmakers to seek their support for his candidacy.

"Mini-meeting ko sila one on one, group by group, para makilala nila anong plataporma ko o anong istilo ko, anong gagawin ko," Romualdez said.

President's endorsement

Majority Leader Fredenil Castro said Duterte's endorsement will be a major factor in the selection of the new Speaker.

Castro, however, added that the next House leader may not necessarily come from PDP-Laban, the President's party.

"Even if there is no endorsement, but so long as congressmen knows that someone enjoys the favor of the president, they will always follow the endorsement, the likes of the president," he said.

"While it is true that members of political parties may abide with the party stand, some members of political parties, they also have their own commitments... It's not the number of the political party that guarantees the election of someone to be speaker of the house," Castro added.

Sara Duterte's choice

Presidential daughter and reelected Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who played a major role in Alvarez's ouster, clarified she has not endorsed anyone for the position.

"I am only the mayor of Davao City. I am not the correct person to endorse someone to be the next speaker. I only have a personal bet but do not intend to influence Congress," the younger Duterte said.

Sara added that she leaves it up to lawmakers to choose who should become the next Speaker.

"It is best if the newly elected members of the house of representatives individually decide who among those who are interested to become the next speaker can truly bring good governance and positive change to Congress, to the Filipino people, and to our country," she said.

However, Pampanga Representative Dong Mendoza said Velasco is Sara's personal choice to succeed Arroyo.

Mendoza told CNN Philippines that Sara already asked the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) to support Velasco, a family friend of the Dutertes. NPC is part of the administration coalition in the House led by PDP-Laban.

"Mayor Sara requested NPC to support sana Cong. Lord Velasco's bid for speakership, but there are still ongoing talks with our members regarding this issue. So far madaming may gusto kay Cong. Lord..," Mendoza said.

Velasco has neither confirmed nor denied reports he will run for Speaker. He has yet to respond to CNN Philippines' request for comment.