FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - June 11, 2019 - 12:00am

When her colleagues asked Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to please take over leadership of the House of Representatives, former president Noynoy Aquino greeted the event by asking: What could she possibly do in a year?

That was a snide remark thinly disguised as a question so typical of the man who disappointed an entire nation. He assumed everyone else had his work ethic – or lack thereof.

But Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is of a different species. Even if she were reluctant to play a leadership role in an ungovernable House, she threw herself onto the job. The record speaks for itself.

In the year she served as Speaker of the House, the chamber passed 250 bills. Among the priority measures approved by the Lower House were: the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Security of Tenure Act. The Coconut Farmers Trust Fund Act, the Rice Tariffication Act along with various packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program.

The other major measures passed are the Universal Health Care Act, the Free Tertiary Education Act and the National ID System. Following the administration’s request, the House passed mining, alcohol and tobacco tax increases, reforms in property valuation, capital income and financial taxes along with the tax amnesty program pushed by the Department of Finance. The House promptly passed all the bills highlighted by President Duterte in his last State of the Nation Address.

Unfortunately, the Senate failed to act as expeditiously. Many of the remaining packages of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program and the excise taxes on alcohol products will be passed on to the incoming Congress.

 Arroyo emphasized that all this work was done to push forward President Duterte’s legislative agenda. “My concern has not been on my legacy as Speaker (but) to support President Duterte’s legacy in the year I had as head of this House,” Arroyo said.

Reflecting on her role in the highest echelons of power, Arroyo would like to think her “legacy will center around our country’s fiscal stability after a storm of financial crisis here and abroad.” She looks back with pride at the fact that from the time she was president, fiscal and economic reforms brought down the country’s poverty incidence from 39 percent to 26 percent. The Duterte administration’s economic strategy, anchored on the ambitious infrastructure modernization program aims to bring down poverty incidence to only 14 percent by 2022.

Because of Speaker Arroyo’s sheer stamina for work, her colleagues admitted being under constant pressure to do their best and work very hard. Absenteeism, long the bane of the Lower House, was probably at its lowest during the year Gloria was Speaker. She constantly showed up during committee hearings prepared with her own inputs to the matters at hand. As she did when she was a hands-on president, Arroyo was always on the phone following up work to be done.

 Her medical condition notwithstanding, Arroyo probably put in more work than any of her colleagues in the House. This is the reason why the House of Representatives very likely had its most productive year ever.

Whoever succeeds her in the incoming Congress will have a tough benchmark of performance to match.


No one in the media community seems to agree that broadcaster Erwin Tulfo was within bounds when he went on a violent rant against DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista during his May 31 radio program. Not one media practitioner stood up in defense of a beleaguered colleague.

That rant, replayed endlessly in social media, deeply troubled the community of men in uniform. Both retired and active service officers posted their condemnation of the Tulfo rant. One found a photo from many years back showing Bautista, then a young Scout Ranger officer, as part of a team that rescued Erwin Tulfo after his speedboat developed trouble near Sulu Island. That photo was worth a thousand words of commentary about the broadcaster’s ability to hold a debt of gratitude.

Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre was so troubled by what happened, he wrote an extensive post about his first-hand experiences with the Tulfo brothers. That post was not flattering to this brood that almost habitually stumbles into controversy. Last year then DOT secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo lost her job after a scandal over the agency’s ad placements for a television program hosted by brother Ben Tulfo.

It is probably not coincidence that the AFP decided to recall the Marine escorts of elder brother Ramon Tulfo, presidential special envoy to China. The PNP likewise pulled out security details provided the other Tulfo brothers along with those assigned to Jocelyn, Erwin’s wife, who is an incoming party-list congressperson.

Last week, the PNP firearms unit conveniently discovered that Erwin’s license to own and possess firearms had recently expired. The broadcaster was asked to surrender his firearms to the police for safekeeping until the license is renewed.

Feeling the heat of public opinion and the anger of uniformed personnel, Erwin Tulfo issued two apologies: the first one half-hearted and the second one a thousand times more contrite.

Secretary Bautista, possibly encouraged by the lawyerly view that a good case for slander could be filed, accepted the Tulfo apology with very stringent conditions. The conditions include publication of the apology in mainstream and social media as well as donations to a number of charities.

Sen. Ping Lacson, while emphasizing he agrees with the PMAAA statement chastising the broadcaster, thinks the apology should be fully accepted and the matter put to rest.

A decorated officer, Bautista now has the opportunity to show he is a gentleman as well.

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