President Rodrigo Duterte did not  endorse any candidate for the House speakership during the recent gathering of neophyte House members at Malacañang, several lawmakers who attended the event said.

The dinner reception, which was attended by more than 125 new and returning House members, was hosted by Davao City Representative-elect Pulong Duterte at the Malago Lounge to familiarize himself with fellow neophyte legislators.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin admitted that lawmakers waited for a presidential endorsement for the speakership but failed to get a direct response from the President.

Wala pang endorsement (No endorsement yet). It was purely a social event which the President graced upon the invitation of Congressman Pulong,” Garbin said.

However, the legislator said a presidential endorsement is still possible based on Duterte’s pronouncements during the reception.

The lawmaker said Duterte first told them that the announcement could be made 72 hours before his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 22, but consequently settled for a much earlier date.

“We were surprised that the President came to the dinner and spent time with us.”

“The President will make an announcement on June 28,” he said.

This was confirmed by Masbate Representative-elect Wilton Kho, who said the Chief Executive was coy to give details about the nature of the impending announcement.

“The President said he would tell us something on June 28, but did not say what it is about. But we expect that it would be his endorsement for the speakership,” Kho said.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers thanked Duterte for gracing the event.

“We were surprised that the President came to the dinner and spent time with us. The new congressmen, as well as the returning ones, appreciated the gesture of the President to welcome us personally in the Palace despite his busy schedule,” Garbin said.

“We want to foster camaraderie among the incoming members of the 18th Congress.”

Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco also thanked the President for his gesture to the neophyte congressmen.

“It was a good opportunity for them to meet the President up close and personal,” Velasco said.

The legislator, who is also among the front runners in the speakership race, said the event also served to get everybody acquainted before lawmakers buckle down to work in the 18th Congress which officially starts on July 22.

“We want to foster camaraderie among the incoming members of the 18th Congress so we can work harmoniously and forward our legislative agenda, as well as the administration’s priority for the next three years, in order to uplift the lives of the Filipino people and sustain the country’s economic growth,” the lawmaker said.

The other front runners for the speakership are Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez and Taguig-Pateros Representative-elect Alan Peter Cayetano. 


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