Duterte Coalition: A sign of unity or disparity in House leadership rat race?

July 8, 2019 - 5:44 PM
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Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque) accepted the invite to join the newly formed Duterte Coalition. (Philstar.com/file photo)

The presidential siblings Sara (mayor of Davao City) and Paolo Duterte (representative of Davao City) formed a coalition after their last name amid the struggle for power.

The Duterte Coalition fuses regional parties—Paolo’s Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod and Sara’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago—and initially included representatives hailing from Davao.

The Duterte siblings formed the coalition as the race toward speakership heated up between Reps. Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig), Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque), Paolo himself and Martin Romualdez (Leyte). Hugpong ng Pagbabago also endorsed another nominee for speaker in Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City.

Sara and Paolo said the Duterte Coalition aims to unite the House of Representatives.

Rallying behind one leader?

So far, the speakership nominees are either members of the administrative slate or President Rodrigo Duterte’s relative.

Cayetano was once the running mate of President Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 national elections and his former foreign affairs secretary. He was batting for a one-year term as speaker before the post is turned over to Velasco.

Velasco, however, was the chosen nominee of ruling party PDP-Laban as well as other major blocs. The endorsement was a surprise to Cayetano who wanted the House majority to stick to the earlier term-sharing agreement.

Paolo, Duterte son, then considered to vie for the coveted role after Duterte suggested it and even quipped on resigning again.

However, he later backed out after speaking with his father and instead endorsed Ungab‘s candidacy.

Romualdez, an administration ally, is the president of Lakas-CMD is also a popular candidate for the speakership. He previously claimed to have his own share of supporters in the lower house, similar to Velasco.

Last week on TV, Cayetano accused Velasco of lying about their supposed term-sharing agreement as House speaker, a deal which President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed.

Both Velasco and Romualdez rejected this proposal.

The number of names vying for the top post prompted Paolo and Sara to make a surprise announcement that they are forming a Duterte Coalition. The first members were

  1. Other Davao City Reps. Isidro Ungab and Vincent Garcia
  2. Rep. Corazon Malanyaon (Davao Oriental)
  3. Rep. Manuel Zamora (Compostela Valley)
  4. Rep. Lorna Bautista (Davao Occidental)
  5. Rep. Claudine Bautista (Dumper Philippines Taxi Drivers Association Party-list)
  6. Reps. Sandro Gonzales and Anton Lopez (Marino party-list)

Velasco, Cayetano and Romualdez were also invited to the coalition. But so far only Velasco and Romualdez welcomed and accepted the invitation.

Velasco then urged his colleagues on Facebook to join this loose grouping:

“I am one with the call and aspirations of the newly-formed coalition and implore my fellow lawmakers in Congress to set aside their personal ambitions and agenda and join the Duterte Coalition so together we can build a House of Representatives that is united and stronger, a House that truly represents the people.”

Statement of Cong. Lord Allan VelascoJuly 5, 2019

Posted by Lord Allan Jay Velasco on Thursday, July 4, 2019

 

While the coalition leaders endorsing Ungab, 54 party-list representatives also expressed support for the grouping, threatening Velasco’s own bid.

Vague aims

In a statement, the Duterte Coalition said that its purpose is to unite the lower chamber.

“The Duterte Coalition is a strategic partnership of dynamic public servants who are committed to institute governance and development reforms that are necessary for the Philippines to secure its rightful place in the world stage of nations, particularly in the Southeast Asian region.”

How concrete this “unity” the coalition is promoting, however, remains to be seen. Paolo and Sara have not urged the coalition to unite behind Ungab, as new members Velasco and Romualdez are apparently stronger contenders for speaker.

The group’s policy agenda, moreover, remains. It is also unclear whether the coalition will be a new bloc supporting President Duterte’s legislative priorities.

Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list), the Makabayan opposition and independent bloc’s bet for speaker, criticized the coalition as showing widening cracks despite a call for unity.

“It is probably sooner that it will totally disintegrate,” Zarate said in a statement. He added that it is “pursuing its own self-serving political and economic interests” in the run-up to the 2022 national elections.