PDP-Laban solons split between Velasco, Cayetano for Speaker

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 24) — With their national chair, President Rodrigo Duterte, still not endorsing anyone for Speaker, lawmakers from Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) appear to be split between two candidates for the top post at the House of Representatives.

A group of PDP-Laban congressmen led by Reps. Ronnie Zamora, Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales, Abraham Tolentino and Dan Fernandez has thrown its support for incoming Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, while another group from the same party have signed a manifesto of support for re-elected Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco.

The group backing Velasco met last night and have gathered 40 signatures in a manifesto of support for the Marinduque lawmaker. The group backing Cayetano did not say how many they were.

However, PDP-Laban President Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said this is not possible.

“PDP-Laban congressmen cannot be split between a party member and a non-party member,” Pimentel told CNN Philippines in a text message.

Velasco hails from PDP-Laban, while Cayetano hails from the administration-aligned Nacionalista Party.

However, PDP-Laban stalwarts have said that it is possible for Duterte to endorse a candidate for Speaker outside the party. Aside from Cayetano, incoming Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez is also a PDP-Laban outsider, hailing from Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats.

PDP-Laban congressmen are expected to vote for whoever Duterte endorses or they will face sanctions.

“Once party chooses, then those who don’t follow will be advised to rethink their PDP-Laban membership. No hard feelings,” Pimentel said.

These statements of support come ahead of Duterte’s expected announcement of his pick for Speaker on Friday.

Duterte’s endorsement is seen as the deciding factor in the speakership race, with the two largest voting blocs in the House — the PDP-Laban bloc and the party-list coalition — vowing to elect whomever the President picks.

Three congressmen from PDP-Laban are running for Speaker: Velasco, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales.

Gonzales appeared to throw in the towel Sunday night at an informal PDP-Laban gathering, with him calling Velasco as the “next Speaker” and reportedly signing onto the manifesto of support.

However, Gonzales clarified to CNN Philippines that he is still backing whomever the President picks.

“At the end of the day, the President’s decision will be given weight,” he said in a text message.

CNN Philippines’ Xianne Arcangel and Xave Gregorio contributed to this report.