By Rommel F. Lopez

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo (Palace Photo)

President Rodrigo Duterte won’t mind if Taguig Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano is not elected speaker of the House of Representatives when the 18th Congress opens on Monday, July 22.

Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters House members were at liberty to choose their next leader and that the “President will not interfere.”

The statement came amid rumors of a brewing coup, after Rep. Paolo Duterte (1D, Davao City), the president’s son, said the race for the speakership was far from over. 

Several congressmen were reportedly unhappy with the Duterte-brokered power-sharing agreement between Cayetano and his rival, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco. Under the scheme, Cayetano will be speaker for 15 months and Velasco will take over for 21 months.

Panelo said Duterte wouldn’t mind if congressmen decided against his endorsement of the power sharing set-up, as the president didn’t really have a choice on who would become speaker. The Palace spokesman reiterated that the president merely offered a solution to end the power struggle in the House.

“[The president’s line was…] ‘They came to me. They sought my help. I gave them the formula. So, it’s their ball. The ball is in their hands,’” he said.

Cayetano ran for vice president under Duterte’s ticket in the 2016 elections.  He lost to Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.