MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco’s bid for the speakership gets a boost after 40 of his party mates signed a manifesto naming him as their choice to lead the House of Representatives.
This was confirmed to Rappler by 3 Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) lawmakers – Pampanga 4th District Representative Juan Pablo Bondoc, Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel, and Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Salvador Leachon – on Monday, June 24.
The manifesto was signed during a meeting of PDP-Laban lawmakers held in an events place in San Juan City on Sunday night, June 23. Bondoc, Pimentel, and Leachon all attended this meeting. (READ: Lord Allan Velasco vows to be the ‘listening Speaker’ of the House)
“Yes. All the congressmen who attended signed a manifesto of support for Congressman Lord Velasco. So far, 40 have already signed and we expect more to sign,” Pimentel said in a text message.
“PDP-Laban is the biggest bloc in the coming 18th Congress and we have the biggest chance to elect a Speaker, so the message last night is that we should solidify, strengthen, unite the PDP-Laban party and come up with an endorsement of our candidate for PDP-Laban. And at the moment, the most viable candidate is Velasco,” he added.
Among those who signed was Pampanga 3rd District Representative Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales Jr, who is among the 3 PDP-Laban lawmakers vying for the speakership along with Velasco and Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, who was ousted as Speaker in 2018.
“Congressman Dong was there and he signed after I did,” said Bondoc in a phone interview. Gonzales is the party's interim national executive vice preisdent.
Alvarez, PDP-Laban secretary-general, was not present on Sunday.
PDP-Laban remains the biggest bloc in the House with around 90 members elected for the next 18th Congress.
Velasco and his wife Wen are close friends of no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, who is expected to name his chosen candidate for Speaker by Friday, June 28.
Other promiment speakership candidates are Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez, whose bid is reportedly being backed by around 153 lawmakers, and Taguig City-Pateros Representative Alan Peter Cayetano, Duterte's running mate in the 2016 elections.
Four other PDP-Laban lawmakers, however, crossed party lines to support Cayetano instead of Velasco. They are San Juan City Representative Ronaldo Zamora, Mandaluyong Representative Neptali Gonzales II, Cavite 7th District Representative Abraham Tolentino, and Laguna 1st District Representative Dan Fernandez.
"Leading more than 250 independent-minded solons is not an easy task. It entails experience and competence," Tolentino was quoted as saying in a press release sent to reporters by Cayetano's office.
Velasco ‘captured the heart’ of party members
With the ongoing signing of the PDP-Laban lawmakers’ manifesto, Velasco has strengthened his bid for Speaker.
Velasco “spoke very well” during the meeting, according to his party mate Bondoc.
“Maayos siyang kausap, madali siyang kausap. Gusto ng congressman ‘yon eh, imbes na uutusan ka lang (He’s easy to talk to. Congressmen like that, instead of just being given orders.) He really captured the heart and the sentiments of most of the party members by being open,” said Bondoc of Velasco.
“For one thing, he’s very approachable. He wants to work with us, recognizing that we are all fellow congressmen. He promises to be open to the needs of our constituents in every district. He is easy to approach and willing to work for the benefit of each individual congressmen and his district,” he added.
The PDP-Laban lawmakers once again agreed the Speaker of the 18th Congress should come from Duterte’s party. They are also against any term-sharing proposals being floated among the speakership candidates.
“The group's sense is we want to work. Very traumatic ang nangyari sa amin no’ng nakaraang change in the speakership, politicking, the budge delay (What happened to us in the past, including the change in the speakership, politicking, the budget delay, was very traumatic.) We don’t want term-sharing anymore. We want continuity. We want to work hard,” said Bondoc.
Still, both Bondoc and Pimentel said their PDP-Laban bloc will abide by the President’s final choice for Speaker – even if the lawmakers are personally backing Velasco already. – Rappler.com