Sara’s Hugpong backs compromise candidate

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
Sara�s Hugpong backs compromise candidate
In a statement, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), the regional political party Carpio founded before last May’s elections, said it “has been patiently observing the developments in the House of Representatives.”
Isidro Ungab Facebook Photo

Davao’s Ungab ‘deeply honored’

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio yesterday offered a compromise candidate for speaker of the House of Representatives in an obvious attempt to end the bitter quarrel among administration allies over the coveted post.

In a statement, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), the regional political party Carpio founded before last May’s elections, said it “has been patiently observing the developments in the House of Representatives.”

“We understand if President Duterte, because of delicadeza, will not accept the intent of our brother from Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod (Hugpong’s local affiliate), Congressman Paolo Duterte, to resolve the conflict among candidates. Therefore, we are endorsing the bid of Congressman Isidro Ungab for speaker,” HNP said.

It said Ungab, who represents Davao City’s third district, “is a four-term congressman and the only lawmaker to hold the chairmanships of both ways and means and appropriations committees.”

HNP proposed that the three active pursuers of the speakership accept leadership posts.

“We suggest that Cong. Alan Peter Cayetano (of Taguig) take the majority leader position, Cong. Lord Allan Velasco (of Marinduque) to take the appropriations committee and Cong. Martin Romualdez (of Leyte) to head the accounts committee,” it said.

“We earnestly hope that everyone can see the light in this option and move forward with urgency in serving our country,” it added.

In a statement, Ungab said he was “deeply honored” by the endorsement of Carpio’s regional party.

“I reiterate my commitment to support the legislative agenda of President Duterte, ensure further economic growth, reduce poverty incidence and help create more opportunities for all Filipinos,” Ungab said, adding that the political group he belongs to “is ready and open to work with everyone… toward unity and cooperation in order to establish a strong and efficient House.”

“Rest assured that HNP has a vision of a House that will truly work for and serve the best interest and welfare of the Filipino people,” he said.

Romualdez said he respects HNP’s endorsement of Ungab.

“However, we will await the President’s final say on the matter. Going back to the President’s last statement on June 27, he maintained his neutrality in the speakership race. In fact, the President told us, the speakership candidates, that he would not meddle in the race and assured us also that he will not secretly pass on any order to support a candidate,” he said.

There were no comments from Velasco and Cayetano, who have been wrangling over a supposed term-sharing allegedly approved by the President.

Ungab, 58, has management degrees from the Asian Institute of Management and Development Academy of the Philippines. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños. A military reservist, he also finished the command and general staff course.

Ungab alternately served as chairman of the ways and means committee and committee on appropriations during the speakership of former Quezon City representative Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Judging from the ouster of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as speaker and the election of his successor, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in July last year, Carpio’s word carries much weight.

Her father, the President, has repeatedly admitted that it was his daughter who “maneuvered” Alvarez’s ouster.

Carpio’s party endorsed Ungab a day after the President’s son, Rep. Paolo, threatened to join the speakership race “to help unite” the House amid the divisive fight among aspirants for the position.

Yesterday’s HNP statement, which referred to Rep. Paolo as “our brother,” apparently had the President’s son’s blessing.

His threat to join the speakership race was seen more as an expression of frustration over the speakership brawl than a serious desire to seek the position.

Other administration allies expressed readiness to support Ungab as HNP’s compromise candidate.

“The Party-list Coalition will support the choice of the Dutertes and especially of Mayor Inday Sara,” 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero, coalition president, said.

Another coalition member, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., said Carpio’s offer could be the “bulong” (whisper) that all House members are waiting for from the President.

“I’ve always suspected that it (would) come from Mayor Inday Sara, since PRRD did not want to offend any of those running for the speakership,” he said, using the initials of the President.

Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, a supporter of Leyte’s Romualdez, said the aspirants should just “slug it out.”

“Let them win the hearts and minds of members of the House. I also suggest that voting for speaker be conducted by secret balloting… to ensure a leader truly supported by the members,” he said.

Romualdez earlier called for a “conscience vote” on the speakership. If he accepts HNP’s proposal, he would take over the committee on accounts from his wife Yedda, who chaired the panel in the 17th Congress, which exited only last Sunday.

The accounts committee manages House funds, while the committee on appropriations is in charge of scrutinizing the annual budget. The committee on ways and means has jurisdiction over tax measures. Together with the speakership, and the positions of majority leader and minority leader, they are among the most coveted posts in the House.

Alvarez clarifies STAR story

Alvarez yesterday clarified a story published in The STAR last June 21 whose title made it appear that he was offering a deputy speaker position to the presidential son and then incoming Davao City congressman.

Actually, the story was about the plan of PDP-Laban, not Alvarez, who is the party’s secretary-general, to offer the post to Duterte’s son. The STAR erred in writing the title and apologizes to Alvarez.

“The title is misleading since there is no mention at all in the body of the article about Rep. Alvarez offering the deputy speaker position to Rep. Duterte,” the former speaker’s chief of staff, Vincent Noel Aureus, said in a letter to this paper.

Aureus said his boss never “commented or made a remark about this topic.”

He also said Alvarez did not “float” the idea of the presidential son aspiring for speaker.

“He merely commented on the topic when he was asked about it. A quick search would show that the platform that appears to have ‘floated’ the idea is a Facebook account (link indicated),” he added.

On behalf of his principal, Aureus demanded that the June 21 story “be taken down and a public apology be issued.”

“Otherwise, we shall be constrained to seek the appropriate legal remedies regarding this matter,” he said.

The part of the story about Alvarez commenting on Duterte’s possible speakership run was based on the former speaker’s interview on ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).

An article about the interview was posted on news.abs-cbn.com at 9:22 a.m. on May 27 titled, “Alvarez backs Paolo Duterte for speaker; Suarez cites ‘delicadeza.’” Suarez is then Quezon congressman and incumbent governor Danilo Suarez.

The article quoted the former speaker as saying he saw nothing wrong with the President’s son as speaker.

“Why not? Huwag nating pagsamahin ’yung porket anak siya ng Presidente, hindi na siya pwedeng mag-aspire for speakership (Let’s not mix the fact that he is the son of the President and so he can no longer aspire for speakership),” he was further quoted as saying.

“In fact, ’pag tumakbo si Congressman Paolo for speaker, susuportahan ko. I will support him 100 percent,” he added.

LP to vote as one

Congressmen belonging to the opposition Liberal Party (LP) will try to vote as a bloc in the election of the next speaker on July 22.

“The Liberal Party will endeavor to vote as one. This is the guidance from our party leadership and we will apply tactical resolve so that we may achieve greater objectives. In this light, we have been engaging all individuals who have expressed their desire to seek the speakership position,” reelected Quezon City Rep. Christopher Belmonte, who is LP secretary general, said in a statement.

“We continue to be guided by our core values. Thus, regardless of our position on the speakership, we will be voting according to these values on key issues, including the death penalty, criminalization of minors and other issues that are integral to upholding the rights and freedoms of our citizens,” Belmonte added.

The LP “will remain steadfast to its principles regardless of who wields the speaker’s gavel,” according to the party executive.

“We will continue to push for genuine democracy in the House, one that recognizes and encourages different opinions, does not punish dissent and allows for a true people’s minority. This will hold true even as we deal with the specific context and landscape of the House,” he said.

In the just-ended 17th Congress, the LP group in the House straddled between the majority and the minority. Most members were allied with the pro-administration majority, while a small group, led by reelected Rep. Edcel Lagman, comprised itself into a “genuine opposition.”

The same setup is emerging in the incoming 18th Congress. Some of Lagman’s opposition colleagues, including Erice, are supporting Romualdez’s candidacy for speaker, while Lagman is apparently inclined to join an authentic House minority.

Lagman has urged administration allies quarrelling over the speakership to agree on a common candidate, who would be challenged by a nominee from a coalesced minority.

‘Velasco open to term-sharing’

Hours after Carpio’s HNP endorsed Ungab yesterday, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel lll, who heads PDP-Laban, indicated in a statement that Velasco is open to sharing the speaker’s three-year term provided he holds the position first.

“To help settle the issue of House speaker which has been dragging for a considerable period of time, the PDP-Laban, which is the majority party, is open to the idea of term-sharing, provided its nominee, Cong. Lord Allan Velasco, goes first since he already has an overwhelming number of members of Congress supporting him,” Pimentel said.

Velasco had earlier rejected the term-sharing idea, which Cayetano claimed he had agreed with during the President’s recent visit to Japan. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

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