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Speakership race divides ruling PDP-Laban

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By Ellson Quismorio

Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) congressmen are issuing varying pleas to their colleagues ahead of the speakership vote next month.

“PDP-Laban is the biggest party bloc in the 18th Congress and has the biggest chance of electing a Speaker,” Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel said.

“I am appealing to my partymates not to waste this opportunity and let us be united in supporting our chosen candidate in the person of [Marinduque lone district Rep. Lord Allan] Velasco,” said Pimentel.

Senator Manny Pacquiao recently announced that Velasco has been picked as PDP-Laban candidate for speaker in the 18th Congress. There are 84 House members affiliated with the party.

Observers believed the speakership race has been narrowed down between Velasco and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) president.

Making the race unusually unpredictable is President Duterte’s refusal endorse his bet, saying he would rather not hurt the feelings of the speakership contenders, who are all his friends. Duterte chairs PDP-Laban.

While Pimentel appeals for unity, other PDP-Laban congressmen have a different stand.

“I think what I can say is that congressmen should, as with everything, act according to what they feel is best for the institution and the country,” Camiguin lone district Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo said.

Earlier, Romualdo said that the speaker-aspirants should be “acceptable to the members of the House…in order for them to actually vote for you.”

“Goodwill is even more crucial in a situation where all the speakership contenders are close to the President and the President opts not to endorse anyone,” noted the chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

San Jose del Monte City lone district Rep. Florida Robes enjoined her PDP-Laban partymates to cast their “conscience vote” regarding the speakership.

“I am appealing to all leaders of political parties: let democracy reign in the House of Representatives and give us the freedom to choose our own speaker. We have to allow the congressmen to cast their conscience vote if we are to elect a House leader who is truly representative of the Filipino people’s will,” she said.

“We are mandated to represent our constituents in the halls of Congress. It is they we represent, not our party leaders, when we cast our votes in committee hearings and plenary sessions,” said Robes, who is a vice-chairperson of the House Committee on People’s Participation.

Last Wednesday during a multi-party caucus led by Romualdez, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda bared that around 40 of his fellow PDP-Laban stalwarts are committed to back the Leyte solon’s bid for the top post in the House.

It remains to be seen how this seeming division on the speakership would affect PDP-Laban during President Duterte’s final three years in office.

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