‘Spend P150M to P300M, to be next Speaker’
MANILA, Philippines — Will money decide who will be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives?
To win the speakership, top contenders for the post must be willing to shell out between P500,000 and P1 million per vote for each of the 300 incoming House members, according to former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
In a startling revelation, the Davao del Norte congressman-elect heavily implied on Monday that the speakership could be bought after all.
In an interview on ANC, Alvarez, who earlier declared his ambition to reclaim the leadership of the House, vouched for his own sincere intentions in helping the Duterte administration push its legislative priorities.
Which was why, according to Alvarez, he would not be taking part in a money race.
“Purposely, I did not approach funders to give out P500,000 to P1 million,” he told broadcaster Karen Davila.
“That, sadly, is what’s going on in the Lower House,” Alvarez said without elaborating.
“I won’t say who it is,” he added.
Alvarez said participating in such dubious methods as vote-buying would compromise the Speaker’s position.
“If we do that, we will be compromising the position of the speakership,” he said.
4 top contenders
Top contenders for the speakership to be vacated by outgoing Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo include incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, Alvarez, former Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.
Other possible contenders are outgoing Sen. Loren Legarda, Majority Leader Fredenil Castro, Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and Cavite Representatives Alex Advincula and Abraham Tolentino.
Outgoing Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said that whoever ends up as the Speaker of the House in the 18th Congress would be well-positioned to influence the outcome of the 2022 presidential race.
“You bet. The political aspirants are very sensitive to who will be the next Speaker … and the polarization of the House will be a factor” in who wins the presidency, he told a press briefing on Monday.
A big factor in 2022
“I’m not saying it will be the winning edge, but it will be a factor,” said Suarez, a member of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), who earlier expressed support for the candidacy of Romualdez.
Suarez earlier said a manifesto of support for Romualdez had been circulated, gathering some 126 votes.
But he answered in the affirmative when asked if the victory of Velasco would be to the advantage of President Duterte’s daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, should the latter run for president.
“The Speaker can accomplish big things in 2022,” he said, noting the influence Congress held over public policy through its power of the purse.
Sara is widely rumored to be backing the candidacy of Velasco, who is close to the Duterte family, but she has stated she has no intention of campaigning for her personal favorite.
The Davao mayor’s hand was seen in the ouster of Alvarez from the speakership.
At the briefing, Suarez said he trusted Mayor Duterte’s word that she would take a hands-off approach in the speakership race.
Though he’s considered by some as a contender in the looming speakership battle, the prospect of presidential son and Davao City Representative-elect Paolo Duterte as the next House leader might not sit well with the public, according to Suarez.
“I really doubt the people will accept that the President is President Duterte and the Speaker is his son,” he told a press briefing on Monday.
Suarez said he didn’t personally know the younger Duterte, a former vice mayor of Davao City, but had heard good things about him.
Bad timing for Paolo
“It’s just too bad he had bad timing … but if his father is not President, he may have a chance at getting the leadership of the House,” he said of Paolo.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he would resign if his son, Paolo, would vie for the House speakership.
“I told Paolo: If you run for the speakership, let me know. If you’re running, I will resign. There are already so many of us in government. Your sister is a mayor. So I’m uneasy,” the President said during the oath taking of several newly appointed government officials in Malacañang.
Paolo has not spoken about his plans in spite of speculations he may throw his hat in the ring.
But Alvarez said he was prepared to give way to Paolo, should the latter seek the speakership.
“If Congressman Paolo runs for Speaker, I will support him. If it can be proven he’s a good Speaker and shows leadership, why don’t we give him a chance?” he said. —With a report by Neil Arwin Mercado
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