‘Congressmen are not for sale’: House leaders deny Alvarez’ vote-buying claims

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 29) — House leaders denied the allegations of re-elected Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. and former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’ that two of his rivals for the speakership are doling out cash to congressmen to secure votes.

“First, congressmen are not for sale. Second, congressmen are not cheap — cheap in the sense that they have integrity to maintain,” House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Wednesday.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez also denied Alvarez’ claims, saying that no money was shelled out in the elections of the last two Speakers.

“Even the former Speaker (Alvarez) can speak for himself. I mean naging Speaker siya, gumastos ba siya? Wala. Eh nung nag-break away si GMA (Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), may gastusan ba? Wala,” Suarez also told The Source.

[Translation: Even the former Speaker can speak for himself. I mean he became Speaker, did he spend money? No. When GMA broke away, did she spend money? No.]

Alvarez has claimed that two lawmakers also vying for the top post in the House are offering ₱500,000 to ₱1 million per congressman to get votes. He said that should lawmakers accept the offer, they are made to sign a manifestation of support which now has over a 100 signatures.

Of those running for Speaker, only Alvarez and Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco have denied throwing cash at fellow lawmakers.

On the other hand, Suarez said that incoming Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez now has around 150 congressmen backing his speakership bid, but denied that he handed out cash to secure their votes.

Romualdez vs Velasco?

Suarez and Castro have narrowed down the speakership race to two contenders: Romualdez, who they say now has the backing of at least half of the chamber, and Velasco, who has close ties to President Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who was elected Taguig representative, is also seen by Castro as a top candidate due to his close ties to the President.

Congressmen said that the two Dutertes’ endorsements will sway them on who to vote for Speaker.

Suarez said that even if around 150 lawmakers have committed to support Romualdez’ speakership bid, they may still turn their backs on him if Duterte or his daughter — who had a hand in the ouster of Alvarez in 2018 — endorses a different candidate.

“Of course he admits that the anointment of the President or Inday Sara is very important but he does not capitalize on the anointment. Perhaps I could deduce that he wants to protect the independence of the House of Representatives and as well as the independence of the executive,” Castro said, referring to Romualdez.

Duterte has not announced his pick for the speakership — a key position leading up to the 2022 presidential elections — and Malacañang said that it is all up to the House to pick its next leader.

The President’s daughter said she will not announce her choice for Speaker as she is just a mayor, with no business in meddling with the affairs of the House.

For the House leaders, it is best for the President not to endorse a speakership bet.

‘Yung [The] division ng basic essence of democracy is judiciary, legislative and executive. Let them work independently,” Suarez said.

The President’s party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan, expects him to choose among the party's members Alvarez, Velasco and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales for the speakership.