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Paolo Duterte threatens to join House speakership race

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte’s son, Davao City Rep. Paolo “Polong” Duterte, announced on Tuesday a tentative plan to vie for the speakership of the House of Representatives, throwing a wrench on what had been shaping up to be a three-cornered fight.

“The House is divided, I might be able to help unite it,” he said in a reversal of his earlier decision that he had no interest in the post.

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The entry of the President’s son into the speakership race could mean dramatic shifts in loyalties and alliances in the House, whose members had been split among three candidates: Representatives Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque; Martin Romualdez of Leyte; and Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig.

The new Speaker will be elected at the opening of the 18th Congress on July 22.

Already, a number of House leaders said they expected members to rally around Duterte even if they had already made commitments to other contenders.

“Realpolitik: Paolo will get 300 and no need to share term. Surely, Martin will give way. The long and short of it: it’s still the President who will wield the sword,” Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said in a Facebook post.

Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. echoed that sentiment, saying the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan would withdraw its support for Velasco and turn to Duterte in such a scenario.

Former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, another contender, had already offered to withdraw his candidacy at the outset, should Mr. Duterte’s son join the race.

‘Run, but I’ll quit’

It was not immediately clear if Paolo is serious about the plan, considering his father had promised to quit the presidency should he run for Speaker.

But Malacañang said President Duterte could still change his mind on his earlier promise to resign should Paolo join the race.

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Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said nothing is set in stone as the younger Duterte had not thrown his hat into the ring.

“Maybe he [Mr. Duterte] will wait for that to happen if that will happen. But you know, you make a position, you make a stand on the basis of circumstances. When those circumstances change, you also change your stand. So it may still change,” Panelo said on Tuesday.

“The President can still change his mind, and Congressman Paolo can also change his mind. Let’s see. Let it evolve,” he said.

Sen. Bong Go, who served as Mr. Duterte’s close aide for two decades, believes, however, that President Duterte will keep his word when he said he would resign if his son Paolo runs for Speaker.

“Knowing the President—I’ve known him for 21 years—President Duterte will do whatever he promised to do,” Go told reporters when asked about the Chief Executive’s previous statement.

In a statement issued by his office, the younger Duterte proposed that the three-year term of the Speaker be split between representatives from Visayas and Mindanao, and party list groups.

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TAGS: 18th Congress, House speakership, Paolo Duterte, Rodrigo Duterte
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