Duterte to decide on Speaker bet by June 28

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will have a choice for House Speaker by June 28, he promised House members on Tuesday, June 18.

Duterte made this announcement during a gathering he hosted for lawmakers from the lower chamber on Tuesday night at the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse.

The President had earlier said he would remain "neutral" in the speakership race and would not back any specific candidate.

Senator-elect Bong Go, however, said some House members insisted Duterte endorse someone, supposedly forcing the President to make a choice within the month.

"President Duterte asked for up to June 28, if they really want him to choose," Go said in Filipino  in an interview with reporters as he visited fire victims in Pasig City on Wednesday, June 19.

"Kung mas nanaisin ni Pangulo na hindi na po siya ang pumili, subalit talagang binabalik sa kanilang mga miyembro ng House na pumili siya para makatrabaho na po kaagad sila bago pa dumating iyong SONA (State of the Nation Address)," said Go.

(If the President had his way, he wouldn't be making that choice but the House members keep on asking him to choose so that they can begin work even before the SONA.)

The gathering at Malago was mostly for neophyte lawmakers, who would number more than 125 in the 18th Congress, according to Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, one of 3 PDP-Laban members vying for Speaker.

"It was a good opportunity for them to meet the President up close and personal,” he said.

Velasco said the ”welcome dinner" was organized by Duterte's eldest son incoming Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte who was also at the event, said Velasco.

Around a week ago, Duterte had also briefly met with PDP-Laban 2019 elections campaign manager Senator Manny Pacquiao on who should be the ruling party's candidate for Speaker.

Duterte will be choosing from 3 names – Velasco, Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, and Pampanga 3rd District Representative Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales Jr.

Other Duterte allies hoping to be Speaker are incoming Taguig City Representative Alan Peter Cayetano and incoming Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez. (READ: Duterte meets with Speaker hopefuls in Japan)

The President himself said he heard of efforts to make Paolo the next Speaker. The President's son, who will be a neophyte congressman when he takes his oath of office, denied vying for the post.

As in the current Congress, the House in the 18th Congress will be dominated by PDP-Laban lawmakers and Duterte allies. – With a report from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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