In this file photo from July 2017, Duterte gives his State of the Nation Address at the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon City. The House of the 18th Congress will elect its leaders in July.
File photo
Duterte leaves it to House to pick next speaker
Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - June 25, 2019 - 8:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is leaving it to members of the House of Representatives to decide on their speaker, saying he does not want to experience the "agony" of choosing from among his friends.

Duterte revealed he had asked outgoing Speaker Gloria Arroyo to choose her successor because he does not want to hurt the feelings of his allies.

"Do not give me a problem anymore... You (Arroyo) are about to retire. You choose the next speaker,"  Duterte said during the oath-taking of local officials Tuesday in Malacañang.

"You choose,  ma'am. I will ask a favor... Huwag mo na ako bigyan ng sakit na loob. They are all my friends, tutal ikaw naman pinaka-senior dito," he added.

(Do not give me hard feelings. They are all my friends. Anyway, you are the most senior at the House)

Duterte said the conversation took place during the thanksgiving of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago in Makati last Monday. He said people thought he was joking but he was not.

Duterte joked that he would send Arroyo back to prison if she refuses to choose the next speaker. 

"Sabi ko pag ayaw niya mamili, pakulong ko siya uli," he said, adding he playfully tied Arroyo's hands during the Hugpong party while they were talking about the House leadership.

(If she refuses to choose, I will send her back to jail)

Arroyo declined to pick a speaker.

'Sort it out yourselves'

Duterte said incoming Taguig Rep. Alan Cayetano and Marinduque Rep. Lord Velasco signified intention to become speaker during the midterm polls. Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez expressed interest in the post after the polls, the president said.

"I said sort it out among yourselves," Duterte said.

"I am comfortable with any speaker as long as he is Filipino," he added.

"Mag-usap kayo uli, bahala kayo sa buhay niyo."

(You discuss is it further. It's up to you.)

Last Monday Duterte said he was still undecided on who to endorse in the race for House speaker, saying he was too busy to think about the issue.

"House Speaker… Look, I just came from Bangkok. Nagpatong ang trabaho ko (My work has piled up) I have to go home because I have to work," Duterte told reporters last Monday.

"I have so many papers to sign. Maybe when I sit for a — in the bathroom and begin to ponder, I might decide on what to do," he added.

Palace: President will not interfere

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte was just floating a possibility. He claimed that the president does not interfere with the issues of Congress.

"(He said) maybe... that’s just a possibility. If you’re speaking of possibilities, as I always say there are limitless possibilities," Panelo said in a press briefing Tuesday.

He said it is also possible that the president would not announce his choice for House speaker.

"Puwedeng puwede, puwedeng hindi. Hindi natin alam. Siya mismo nagsabi 'maybe' eh (Maybe yes, maybe no. He himself said 'maybe')," Panelo said.

Panelo later on admitted that the president's political alliances may be a consideration in his decision-making.

"All of them are allies eh. Maybe he doesn’t want to ruffle the feelings of the candidates; and all of them naman are supportive of the president," the presidential spokesman said.

Duterte's former aide Christopher Go, now a senator-elect, previously said the president had asked for more time to decide on who he would endorse.

Previous reports said the president may announce his preference by June 28.

'Preference, not interference'

Panelo claimed Duterte's announcement of his preferred contender for House speaker would not be tantamount to an interference with the affairs of a co-equal branch.

"Maybe if he does that, he will be just expressing a preference... Expressing a preference, I don’t think that’s interference. And the interference would be: 'I want this man to be the speaker, whether you like it or not.' That's a different story," Panelo said.

Panelo said Duterte had a neutral stance on the speaker race when they talked about the matter last week.

"Last week, I was with him in Bangkok. And when he arrived there, we went up and we had a huddle about it...He said 'May the best man win. Bahala sila (It's up to them),'” the presidential spokesman said.

Panelo said Go's statement that Duterte had asked asked his allies to give him until June 28 to decide was not necessarily untrue.

"You know, the minds of human beings change depending on the circumstances. You change the circumstances and you change your style," he said.

Pressed why the president needs time to decide, Panelo said: "Perhaps because you and the candidates are pressing him. There are groups that don't want to move without any message coming from the president."

Panelo also claimed PDP-Laban's endorsement of Rep. Velasco does not necessarily equate to a presidential endorsement.

"All of these things are all speculations. Let’s just wait for the president if he does really will announce," he said.

Panelo, however, said lawmakers do not need to wait for the president's endorsement when picking their leaders.

"They’re supposed to be knowledgeable of the candidates," he said.

"Ever since, our members of Congress court the president; it was changed because our president does not interfere...It's not his style."

ALAN PETER CAYETANO FERDINAND MARTIN ROMUALDEZ HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES LORD ALLAN VELASCO
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