Cayetano secures speakership after Duterte siblings heed dad’s decision

Mara Cepeda
Cayetano secures speakership after Duterte siblings heed dad’s decision


Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte says Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte told him 'to respect the decision of the President' in the speakership race

MANILA, Philippines – Taguig City-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano secured the speakership after two of President Rodrigo Duterte’s children agreed not to block his bid for the post.

On Monday morning, July 22 – the day lawmakers chose their new leader – Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte said he had spoken to his sister, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who told him they should “respect” the term-sharing arrangement between Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, that Duterte had greenlighted.

“[She told me] to respect the decision of the President” was Paolo Duterte’s brief reply to reporters when asked what Sara Duterte told him about the speakership race.

Paolo Duterte initially gunned for the speakership but later withdrew his bid and backed Davao City 3rd District Representative Isidro Ungab for speaker. He formed the Duterte Coalition to boost the candidacy of Ungab, who was also endorsed by the Hugpong ng Pagbabago party of Sara Duterte. 

Until Cayetano’s actual election on Monday, the Duterte siblings were mum on whether or not they would challenge their father’s endorsement of the Cayetano-Velasco term sharing.

Sara Duterte had earlier said Cayetano had made a “veiled threat” against her – “that if I endorse Rep Velasco for Speaker, I would break up the ‘group.’ And this, he said, will affect the presidential elections of 2022.”

It was only on Monday morning – less than an hour before the opening of the 18th Congress – that Paolo Duterte revealed his support for Cayetano, and was even among those who nominated him for the post during the session.

It signaled the end of coup talks against Cayetano that Paolo Duterte himself hinted  at ahead of the House vote. 

A SONA no-show threat from the President?

A source privy to talks among lawmakers said Duterte supposedly threatened not to show up at his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) to be delivered before a joint session of Congress on Monday afternoon,  if  legislators staged a coup against Cayetano. 

This was confirmed by Velasco himself as he delivered a speech during the breakfast hosted by Cayetano for lawmakers at the Nograles Hall on Monday morning.

“Later, sana naman walang gulo tayo sa plenary mamaya (I hope there wouldn’t be any disruption at the plenary later), because the President doesn’t want what happened last year, noong kanyang 3rd SONA (during his 3rd SONA), to happen again this 4th SONA. Let’s make everything easy for the President,” Velasco said. 

Last year, Duterte’s 3rd SONA got delayed after the House unseated Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez as Speaker and replaced him with then-Pampanga 2nd District representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. 

Paolo Duterte was supposed to host a breakfast for lawmakers on Monday morning at the South Lounge, scheduled at the same time as a breakfast hosted by Cayetano at Nograles Hall. 

Paolo Duterte’s conversation with his sister apparently changed his mind, prompting him to instruct Ungab to tell the more than 190 lawmakers gathered at the South Lounge to move to Cayetano’s event instead. 

Paolo Duterte said he did not attend the breakfast he hosted anymore because he had a separate meeting inside his congressional office. Ungab also joined this meeting.

Paolo Duterte and Ungab later joined Cayetano’s breakfast around 9:30 am. At the Nograles Hall, the presidential son was seated between Cayetano and Velasco, and exchanged light banter with them.

While seated at their table, Cayetano asked Paolo Duterte if he preferred to be called “Paolo” or “Pulong” now that he was a congressman.

‘Huwag na ‘yong Pulong (Don’t use Pulong anymore),” said Paolo Duterte.

The presidential son then turned to Velasco and joked that the length of terms under the deal with Cayetano would now be interchanged: Cayetano would serve for the first 21 months, while Velasco would only get to be Speaker for 15 months.  Under the existing agreement, Cayetano would serve for the first 15 months, and Velasco for the remaining 21 months.

Cayetano, Velasco, and Duterte simply laughed at the Davao City congressman’s joke. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.