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Down to 2 for Speaker, but Duterte keeps them guessing

MANILA, Philippines — The 54-strong party-list bloc has narrowed down its pick for the next Speaker to two candidates —Representatives-elect Martin Romualdez of Leyte and Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque — who have shown they are “truly serious” and sincere, according to leaders of the coalition.

In a statement on Tuesday, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Rep. Jericho “Koko” Nograles said the prevailing sentiment within the bloc, after meeting four of the five rivals for the post, was to select the one with strong connections to party-list groups.

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“This will be a tough decision to make because both of them are close to our hearts but we will definitely choose the Speaker who can treat us justly and fairly,” he said.

Velasco, a member of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), is rumored to be the personal favorite of President Duterte’s daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, while Romualdez is the president of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats.

“I observed that our party list congressmen are one in the belief that under a Velasco or a Romualdez speakership, we will be treated fairly and the concerns of our constituents will be heard and respected,” Nograles said.

The group’s president, 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero, said his group had no official position yet, though he confirmed that the members were now divided between the two camps.

“We hear the sentiments of Koko Nograles and the rest of the party list membership. From what we hear, there is truth to what he says,” Romero said in a text message to the Inquirer.

The group had met with Velasco and Romualdez, as well as incoming Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. of PDP-Laban.

Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez missed two opportunities to meet the party list members and would no longer be considered, Romero said.

The new Speaker will be chosen in an election at the opening of the 18th Congress on July 22.

Surprise visit

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While the party list bloc has narrowed down its choices for Speaker, President Rodrigo Duterte has kept members of Congress guessing about his personal pick just weeks before the opening of the new Congress.

At dawn on Monday, the President made a surprise visit to inspect the flight delays at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), along with Romualdez.

While declining to interpret it as an endorsement, outgoing House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said the President tagging along Romualdez is “a good gesture.”

Before heading to Naia on Monday, sources overheard the President addressing Romualdez as “Mr. Speaker” while they were together at the wake of Sendeng Loo Gaisano at Forbes Park in Makati City.

“But you know the President, he likes to fool around,” said a source, who declined to be named.

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TAGS: House speakership, Lord Allan Vealsco, Martin Romualdez, Rodrigo Duterte
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