Alvarez alleges vote-buying in speakership race

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 28) — Reelected Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez claimed that two of his fellow contenders for the top post at the House of Representatives have supposedly thrown cash at lawmakers in a bid to secure votes.

Sinabi sa akin ng mga kasamahan ko, mayroong nag-offer ng ₱500,000 per congressman and then sinagot naman tig-₱1 million per congressman," Alvarez told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.

[Translation: My colleagues told me that someone offered ₱500,000 per congressman, and then this was countered by another camp with ₱1 million per congressman.]

Alvarez said lawmakers who accept the offer would immediately sign a manifestation of support. He said he has seen the manifestation, which already has around 100 signatures.

"Nawawalan din ako ng gana dahil nga pagka ganyan, siyempre, obviously, mayroon talagang funder ‘yan, 'di ba dahil ang laking pera eh,” Alvarez said.

[Translation: I’m also losing my appetite if there are things like that, because obviously, they have funders as they have huge amounts of money.]

He refused to identify who the lawmakers offering cash were.

Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, one of those aspiring for the speakership, has denied bribing lawmakers to support him.

"Boss, wala akong ganoong kalaking pera. [Sir, I don't have that kind of money,]" Velasco said. The lawmaker threw a birthday party for President Rodrigo Duterte at the posh Sofitel Manila hotel in Pasay City last year.

The coalition of party-lists, the second largest voting bloc in the House, also said that no one from their group has been offered money to support a candidate for Speaker.

"It cheapens the position of the speakership. Mali. Pangit pakinggan [It's wrong. It sounds off,]" said Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin, the bloc's spokesperson.

Despite his allegations, Alvarez, who is gunning again for the speakership despite having been ousted by a House dominated by members of his party, is not yet conceding as he expects the tide to turn in favor of whoever President Rodrigo Duterte supports.

Kahit wala kang numbers ngayon ... ‘Pag halimbawa nagparamdam na ‘yung Pangulo na ikaw na ‘yung napupusuan, magbabago lahat ‘yan,” he said.

[Translation: Even if you don’t have numbers now … If, for example, the President hints that he wants you as Speaker, everything will change.]

He added that the manifestation of support is not binding and that the final verdict on who gets to be the next Speaker would be out after congressmen vote for their leader on the floor when Congress resumes in July.

Malacañang has insisted that it is all up to the House to pick its next leader and Duterte has yet to publicly announce who he would back for Speaker.

Alvarez and his fellow Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) members expect that their chairman, Duterte, will pick among him, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales.

However, Alvarez said it is also possible that Duterte picks a speakership bet from outside the party, like Taguig 1st District Rep.-elect Alan Peter Cayetano who hails from the Nacionalista Party which is allied with PDP-Laban.

Garbin said Duterte should make his choice for Speaker known to quell vote buying rumors.

Of the speakership bets, Velasco has claimed that he has the support of Duterte and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who the President said was behind the coup that ousted Alvarez after the his third State of the Nation Address.

Mayor Duterte said she has a personal pick to become Speaker, but would rather not announce it.

“I am only the Mayor of Davao City. I am not the correct person to endorse someone to be the next Speaker,” she said in a statement.

In the same statement, the Davao City mayor denied that she has recommended for House Speaker Leyte 1st District Rep.-elect Martin Romualdez, who is the president of Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, the former political party of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Davao City Mayor also said that she declined Alvarez’ offer of reconciliation and confirmed that Taguig 1st District Rep.-elect Alan Peter Cayetano did not seek her endorsement. She did not comment on Velasco.

Outgoing Senator Loren Legarda, who was elected Antique representative, has also expressed intention to run for Speaker.

Meanwhile, the President’s son, incoming Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte, has quashed rumors that he will run for Speaker. The President also threatened to resign if he gunned for the speakership.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.