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Panelo: Duterte won’t meddle in Speaker race

Malacañang on Thursday insisted anew that President Duterte will not interfere in the House speakership race even if three of the four top contenders met with him in Tokyo on Wednesday night.

In a television interview, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, returning Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, and incoming Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano made a “courtesy call” and “social visit” to the President, who is in Japan for a four-day working visit.

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Panelo said he was present during one of the courtesy calls made by two of them in the Palace and heard the President say, “you’ll have to do it yourselves boys, I will not interfere. May the best [man] win.”

“Whoever’s the choice of the members of Congress, then he would be the Speaker,” Panelo added.

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Senator-elect Bong Go had shared on Facebook photographs of the President’s meeting with the three Speaker aspirants, but said that Duterte “did not want to meddle since they are all very good lawmakers.”

Go added that Duterte has yet to make up his mind on who to endorse for the Speaker’s post.

Later on Wednesday night, reporters ran into Cayetano in Tokyo, but he downplayed the meeting with the President and said that they only talked about basketball.

Aside from the three congressmen, former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and the President’s son, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, are also reportedly vying for the post.

Not in the running

Incoming Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, meanwhile, clarified on Thursday that she was not in the running for the Speaker’s post. Neither was she aspiring to chair a House committee, she said, even as she expressed openness to share her learnings from her 18 years in the Senate.

“I was surprised to see my name [among the contenders]. I want to give it my best in the larger House, but the Speakership was never in my radar,” Legarda said.

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While she expressed confidence that she could handle the job of leading the 303-member House, Legarda said she did not aspire to be Speaker as there were already too many candidates.

“With regard to the job, I know I can do [it]. But do I want the job? Not necessarily,” she said.

Legarda however said she was willing to offer her experience as chair of the Senate committee on finance under the Aquino and Duterte presidency, “but that will be up to the House leadership,” she said.

In a separate statement, House opposition leader Albay first district Rep. Edcel Lagman reminded aspirants for House Speaker to uphold the independence of Congress as a coequal branch of government.

“A worthy Speaker can have reasonable collaboration with the administration, but can pursue differing views consistent with the people’s welfare, the Constitution and the rule of law,” Lagman said. —WITH A REPORT FROM MELVIN GASCON

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TAGS: Cayetano, duterte, Malacañang, Panelo, race, Romualdez, speaker, Velasco
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