MANILA, Philippines – From P1 million, the alleged bribe offer in the speakership race has ballooned to P7 million for each congressman, Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, a candidate for speaker, disclosed Tuesday.
The massive bribe offer has infuriated congressional leaders who said that vote buying is a desperate move that should be condemned.
1Pacman Party-list Rep. Michael Romero, president of the 54-strong Party-list Coalition Foundation, Inc. (PCFI), decried the alleged bribery as an insult to lawmakers, especially members of the coalition, which has slowly emerged as a solid political bloc in the Lower House.
“We feel very, very insulted. Our votes are not worth anything at this time. It is not worth any peso because our conscience will never bear such insult,” he said.
Romero said one member of their group has already been approached.
“We will expose them,” he vowed.
To win the speakership race, a candidate must get a minimum 153 votes, from the 304-member legislative body.
If the P7 million bribe offer report is correct, it will cost a candidate some P1.07 billion to win the post.
In an impromptu press conference before his interview with the PCFI, Gonzales admitted that he has heard that the bribe offer for a vote for a party-list congressman has increased from P500,000 to P2 million.
“Kapag may usok, may apoy (If there is smoke, there is fire),” Gonzales said in reaction to rumors of vote buying for the speakership contest.
“Maliit pa nga iyon. I heard yesterday magiging P7 milyon pa iyon, sana huwag na gawin iyan (But that is still a small amount. I heard yesterday it will be P7 million, I hope this is not done),” he said.
It was recalled that former speaker and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez has claimed that the camp of one candidate for speaker has been dangling P500,000 to P1 million to get the support of each colleague in the Lower House.
Earlier, Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said that a big business that has important interests to protect could be behind any bid to offer money for votes.
A senior administration congressman claimed that one of the country’s wealthiest businessman has influenced a political party to support a specific candidate for speaker.
Gonzales appealed to his fellow candidates to compete fairly, adding that resorting to bribery is a dishonorable way of getting the position.
The administration congressman is the fourth candidate for the speaker to present his legislative agenda and program before the PCFI.
“Ang edge ko sa kanila ay wala akong direct access kay Presidente at kay Ma’am Inday Sara (My edge is I have no direct access to the President and Ma’am Inday Sara),” said Gonzales.
He added: “We have no political bloodline, walang business, and power. I am here to serve.”
Gonzales is vying for the PDP-Laban nomination for speaker. His party rivals for the post are Alvarez and Marinduque Rep. Lord Alan Velasco.
The Nacionalista Party and National Unity Party have declared support for comebacking Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano while and Representative-elect Martin Romualdez has the solid backing of Lakas-CMD which he heads as chairman.