President Duterte arrives at the rostrum of the session hall to deliver his third State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives yesterday. Joining him are Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Krizjohn Rosales
Pantaleon Alvarez ousted; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is House Speaker
Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 24, 2018 - 12:00am

SONA Highlights

• No term extension for Duterte; public support seen for federalism

• TRAIN to continue

• Rice prices to go down by P7 per kilo; hoarders to face economic sabotage raps

• Corruption must stop… justice will catch up with those who steal

• Bangsamoro Organic Law signed in 48 hours

• Government to protect interests in West Philippine Sea

• Third telco to be opened to all groups, local and foreign

MANILA, Philippines — As the nation waited for President Duterte to deliver his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, a power play broke out at the House of Representatives and ended with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez losing his seat to Pampanga congresswoman and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

For nearly an hour, the two House members were claiming the speakership until President Duterte broke the impasse minutes before he delivered his third SONA.

This meant Alvarez was allowed to perform his last official function as Speaker when the President delivered his SONA an hour behind schedule.

Convening after the SONA last night, however, 184 House members officially voted Arroyo to the position. Twelve abstained.

The vote was a reaffirmation of a manifesto of support for Arroyo signed by more than 180 of the 292-member Congress.

Former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo shouts from the rostrum after the microphone was turned off prior to her taking her oath as the new speaker at the House of Representatives yesterday. AP

House Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya Jr., who presided over the session, said they decided to continue the proceedings despite the absence of the mace since it is the lawmakers who comprise the chamber, and not any instrument or symbol.

The President arrived at the Batasang Pambansa complex on a helicopter a few minutes before his scheduled 4 p.m. SONA.

Sources said President Duterte met separately with Alvarez and Arroyo at the presidential legislative liaison office for about 30 minutes before he delivered his SONA.

The President later held a shorter conference with Arroyo.

The President had reportedly told her to wait at least one more day, as he would ask Alvarez to immediately step down.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday), GMA (Arroyo) will be the Speaker,” said one House member who voted for Alvarez’s ouster. The impasse delayed the SONA for over an hour.

Alvarez and Senate President Vicente Sotto III welcomed Duterte upon his arrival at the Batasan complex.

The two congressional leaders led Duterte to the nearby presidential legislative liaison office. With Alvarez was Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.

Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo confirmed Duterte’s meetings with Alvarez and Arroyo. He said he did not know what was taken up.

Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go told reporters Duterte also separately met with Alvarez in private.

Before the SONA, the former president took her oath of office as Alvarez’s successor in an informal session.

The former president’s supporters include former first lady and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

Sources told The STAR that Marcos’ eldest daughter Gov. Imee Marcos and the congresswoman’s nephew former Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez attended meetings of the Arroyo camp.

The Marcoses are reportedly demanding the replacement of Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who had initiated a House investigation of Gov. Marcos’ alleged misuse of tobacco funds.

The committee on good government and public accountability chaired by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel has recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against the governor and other provincial officials. Gov. Marcos has consistently denied wrongdoing.

At least 161 members of the 292-member lower chamber signed a manifesto showing their shift of loyalty to the former president, whom Alvarez removed as deputy speaker in mid-2017 for voting against the restoration of the death penalty.

A leadership change only needs a vote of a majority among the House members. There were 271 lawmakers who attended yesterday’s SONA.

With the leadership squabble, President Duterte had to put off signing the Bangsamoro Organic Law and delay his delivery of his SONA.

Reliable sources revealed the attempt to unseat the Davao del Norte-based Alvarez started late Sunday upon the instigation of presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

Stalwarts of the PDP-Laban, Villars’ Nacionalista Party, billionaire Danding Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition and the multi-party National Unity Party responded to Sara’s call.

Breakfast with GMA

Insiders likewise told The STAR that all the “party leaders” under the administration coalition had a breakfast at the office of Arroyo, except those from the Liberal Party.

Alvarez, now on his third year as Speaker, opened the resumption of the session in the morning and even delivered a lengthy speech about his accomplishments, although there had notably been small caucuses before the session.

But all these changed dramatically after House Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia – an ally of the Speaker – banged the gavel around lunchtime and called for “adjournment” despite calls and a formal motion by another Deputy Speaker, Rolando Andaya Jr. to the contrary.

“I object,” the Camarines Sur congressman, who had served as budget secretary of Arroyo, shouted repeatedly.

Before the SONA, Andaya could be seen reading a “signed manifesto” of support for Arroyo.

Her allies at the session hall first nominated Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floreindo Jr. – a political foe of Alvarez – as speaker but the former nominated Arroyo instead.

House reporters watched events unfold from the Batasan-wide security-installed CCTV without any audio, together with a large group of lawmakers, and tried hard to listen to what Andaya was announcing.

Also seen in the video in the House media center were Rep. Marcos, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and socialite philanthropist Pangasinan Rep. Rosemarie Arenas.

The gathering was technically unofficial, however, as the sessions had already been adjourned.

It was also reported that the House Mace – a symbol of authority – had gone missing.

Almost half an hour later, Arroyo – in red dress – was seen taking her oath before Rep. Dennis Laogan of party-list Ang Kabuhayan, the chamber’s youngest member. She could be seen shouting or calling her supporters to join her on the podium.

An Arroyo speakership, good only for less than a year, will be marked with historical firsts – first for a woman and for an ex-president.

House Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo – the highest LP official in the chamber – said his party decided not to join the oust-Alvarez move. Quimbo was administrator of Pag-IBIG fund during the Arroyo administrator.

He said those who didn’t sign the oust-Alvarez manifesto were Reps. Edcel Lagman (Albay), Gabriel Bordado (Camarines Sur), Tom Villarin (Akbayan), Bolet Banal (Quezon City), Teddy Baguilat (Ifugao), Kaka Bag-ao (Dinagat Islands), Gary Alejano (Magdalo), Jocelyn Limkaichong (Negros Oriental) and Francis Gerald Abaya (Cavite).

Apprehensions

Earlier yesterday, Sotto said the chamber is ready to work with Arroyo if she is elected speaker. He stressed the need for harmonious relations between the Senate and the House for the speedy passage of reform legislation.

But Sen. Grace Poe aired her apprehensions over an Arroyo speakership, citing various anomalies and controversies that took place during her administration.

“I don’t think I have to repeat myself and remind the people about the corruption and all of the other anomalies that happened during her term in office,” Poe said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel before the start of SONA.

“For me, is there no one else who can probably take over the speakership?” she added.

Poe said she expects the administration and the House to push for Charter change with Arroyo at the helm of the House.

If the effort succeeds, Poe said Arroyo would be “either next in line to be the president of the country or at par with the president.”

“Is this the change that we wanted? Somebody led by the former president, with her style of governance during her time? I’d rather have somebody totally different. Not from the choices that they are presenting right now,” Poe said.

Poe reiterated that Charter change is not among the priorities of the public right now as they have so many other problems to deal with.

“There are so many problems that could be addressed without charter change,” she said. – With Marvin Sy, Jess Diaz

Legislative Priorities

1. Ratify Bangsamoro Organic Law

2. Establish Coconut Farmers Trust Fund

3. Pass National Land Use Act

4. Create Department of Disaster Management, like FEMA in US

5. Bring down rice prices

6. Pass TRAIN Package 2 before yearend

7. Pass Universal Health Care Law

Related video:

GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO PANTALEON ALVAREZ STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
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