Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago is fielding its own candidate for Speaker of the House of Representatives following the announcement of her brother, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, that he will join the race “to unify” Congress.
This developed as an aspirant for the same position, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said he would await President Rodrigo Duterte’s final word on the matter.
Going by his last statement on June 27, Romualdez added, the President said he would remain neutral in the speakership race.
“In fact, the President told us, the speakership candidates, that he would not meddle in the race and assured us also that he will not secretly pass on any order to support a candidate,” Romualdez said.
The regional party of Sara Duterte-Carpio, the President’s daughter, said it would support Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab as Speaker.
Ungab served as Davao City councilor for nine consecutive years before he became the city’s Third District congressman.
“With its three incumbent congressmen from Davao Region, the HNP has been patiently observing the developments in the House of Representatives,” Duterte-Carpio’s group said in a statement.
“We understand if President Duterte, because of delicadeza, will not accept the intent of our brother from Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod, Congressman Paolo Duterte, to resolve the conflict among candidates.
“Therefore, we are endorsing the bid of Congressman Isidro Ungab for Speaker,” the HNP said in a statement.
Ungab said he was “deeply honored for the endorsement as House Speaker.”
“I am a good soldier under the command of every Filipino. I am ready, willing and capable to serve in any capacity. HNP is ready and open to work with everyone. HNP hopes that everyone will aim for and work toward unity and cooperation in order to establish a strong and efficient House,” he added.
The HNP also said the group suggested that Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano take the majority leader position, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco to take the appropriations committee, and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez to head the accounts committee.
“We earnestly hope that everyone can see the light in this option and move forward with urgency in serving our country,” the HNP said.
Earlier, the President’s son, Paolo Duterte, said he would seek the speakership to unify Congress. He did so against the backdrop of a threat from his father that he would step down as President if his son sought the top position in the House.
Duterte, a neophyte congressman, said he decided to put his hat in the ring after a persistent talk by Cayetano of sharing the three-year term of Speaker with Velasco.
Cayetano and Velasco are from the ruling PDP-Laban headed by President Duterte, who has refused to endorse anyone for the post of Speaker. Romualdez heads the Lakas-CMD while Ungab is with the HNP.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the President is serious about resigning if his son seeks the speakership.
“I think Senator [Christopher] Bong Go spoke about it already. And if you go by the words of Senator Go, him knowing the President most, it would seem that… the President is serious,” Nograles told Palace reporters.
The Cabinet official said Duterte’s preference for Speaker matters because he serves as the leader of the PDP-Laban party.
“The President wears many hats and one of the hats that he wears is that he is the head of the PDP-Laban. PDP-Laban is the ruling party. It’s called the ruling party because you have the most number of representatives in the House of Representatives,” he said.
“So inevitably, because you’re the ruling party, people tend to ask what’s the decision of the ruling party. I think that’s where the question is really, that’s why everybody’s asking the President to say what his preference is,” he added.
But he said “everything is still up in the air” until the President decides on the matter.
Several lawmakers, however, are of the opinion that Romualdez’s management and leadership skills make him the most qualified candidate for the speakership.
Then House Minority Leader and now Quezon Gov. Danilo Suarez recognized Romualdez’s track record and persuasive skills that would help the 18th Congress back the President’s structural reforms.
“He is the most experienced and competent candidate and can handily win the speakership race in a free for all fight. Martin is a very credible leader who has the respect of his colleagues. His commitment to help President Duterte, especially in approving vital bills is beyond question,” said Suarez.
Last week, President Duterte refused to say who he preferred, saying he would no longer endorse any of the aspirants and urging congressmen to “sort it out among themselves.”
On Wednesday, PDP-Laban president Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said the ruling party would not support Paolo Duterte for Speaker.
“For as long as there are PDP Laban members aspiring to be House Speaker and they are well qualified to be one, then PDP Laban members should and must consider first supporting their party mate,” Pimentel said.
Paolo Duterte, he said, is not a PDP-Laban member.
PDP spokesperson Ron Munsayac said the ruling party was to meet Wednesday to consult with their party mates in the House over the latest developments.
Sara Duterte said she was surprised by her brother’s decision.
HNP spokesperson Jefry Tupas said the party would not support Paolo Duterte’s bid and would instead endorse Ungab, a four-term congressman.
Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate on Wednesday said the move to endorse Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab as a common candidate for Speaker will not address the conflict among the other aspirants for the top position at the House.
He said Ungab’s entry into the race would only further divide Congress.
“Proposing Congressman Ungab as a common candidate will not solve anything. Because how will the big parties take it now, that they are being dictated by a regional party like Hugpong ng Pagbabago?” Zarate, member of the leftist Makabayan bloc, said.
“How will the so-called major party, the PDP-Laban, accept this candidate, accept this that the next speaker will be a non-member of the party?” he said.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.