Duterte party endorses Velasco for House Speaker

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 26) — President Rodrigo Duterte's political party, Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), endorsed Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco for House Speaker in the 18th Congress on Wednesday.

"Magaling si Lord Velasco as a leader. Ine-expect namin na masusuportahan niya ang panukala mga na makakatulong sa sambayanang Pilipino," PDP-Laban campaign manager Senator Manny Pacquiao said.

Velasco welcomed the endorsement of his party.

"(It) will inspire me to work harder in bringing about meaningful changes and the much-needed unity to the bigger chamber," he said in a statement.

The political party also rejected claims the President suggested term sharing. It said the next Speaker should serve for the full term of three years to make sure the legislative agenda of this administration will be carried out.

Related: Cayetano says Duterte pushed for term-sharing deal among speakership bets

Eighty-four solons from PDP-Laban have been elected to serve in the House of Representatives. So far, only 60 have signed the manifesto expressing support for Velasco, but the party is confident their bet will get 100 percent of the votes.

PDP-Laban warned its members that those who go against the endorsement will face sanctions.

Other House blocs back Velasco

Aside from PDP-Laban members, the party said that out of 300 solons, at least 231 lawmakers from other House blocs signed a multi-party manifesto to support Velasco. The signatories include Party-list Coalition President Rep. Michael Romero, Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan for the Northern Luzon Alliance, and Reps. Michael John Duavit and Wes Gatchalian for the Nationalist People's Coalition.

“We believe that Representative Velasco is the best choice to lead the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress given his experience, competence, and strong camaraderie with his colleagues,” the manifesto reads.

Despite Romero’s signature, Ako-Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin denied this is the stand of the entire bloc. He said the 54 members of the coalition met Wednesday night to pick their bet.

If the numbers given by PDP-Laban executive vice president Rep. Dong Gonzales give the true picture, Velasco has received majority support in the chamber. The Speaker is elected by a majority vote at the beginning of each Congress.

At least four other lawmakers are also eyeing to replace Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now on her third and last term. They are Leyte Rep.-elect Martin Romualdez, Taguig Rep.-elect Alan Peter Cayetano, and Davao del Norte 1st District Rep.-elect Pantaleon Alvarez, who once held the position.

The six-member Makabayan bloc, however, has fielded Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate for the House’s top post. Zarate, in an interview with CNN Philippines, said his bid illustrates how those eyeing the Speakership no longer need the blessing of Malacañang.

The lawmaker said he wants to raise issues on poverty, sovereignty, even as he is aware that the Speakership post is a number’s game.

“It’s anybody’s game until July 22,” Zarate said.

Meanwhile, Duterte said he is no longer naming his choice for House Speaker. He said he left the call to Arroyo to select her successor.

Who is Lord Allan Velasco?

The 41-year-old lawmaker is the representative of the lone district of Marinduque. He chaired the House Committee on Energy and Oversight Committee of Solid Waste Management Act. Prior to this, he served as a provincial administrator in the provincial government of Marinduque. Before he became a congressman, he served as court attorney in the Office of the Court Administrator in Supreme Court.

He graduated with Bachelor of Science in Business Management at the De La Salle University and Bachelor of Laws at University of Santo Tomas.

Gonzales said Velasco’s close ties to President Duterte and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio was one of the reasons why he became the party’s choice.

"Isang factor nga po very close si Cong. Lord kay Ma’am Mayor Sara at sa ating Pangulo, Preisdent Duterte," he said.

Velasco has vowed to be open to all lawmakers regardless of their party, shepherd the President's agenda in the chamber, and ensure that all lawmakers receive budgets for their respective districts.

"If elected speaker, I assure them that I will remain a consultative and a listening leader, who welcomes his fellow lawmakers regardless of their political colors and affiliations," he said.