House power struggle exposes major crack in ruling coalition – solon

Jul. 25, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – The country witnessed an unexpected spectacle on Monday when former president, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo engaged in a tug of war with Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez on the speakership of the House of Representatives.

The two, both known as President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies, stole the limelight from the chief executive’s third State of the Nation address on Monday afternoon after their rift caused more than an hour of delay to the scheduled 4:00 p.m. national address.

Prior to the SONA, Caloocan City 2nd District Edgar Erice bared that there was a manifesto circulating among lawmakers, seeking the ouster of Alvarez, and the installation of Macapagal-Arroyo as Speaker of the House.

The coup has been brewing since February this year after Alvarez’s rift against Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio. This came after Alvarez supposedly called her newly formed party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), as part of the opposition.

Minutes before the SONA, 161 members of the House elected Macapagal-Arroyo, unfazed by the lack of mace— House’s symbol of legislative authority—, a sound system, and the secretariat.

But Alvarez proceeded to welcome the President when he arrived for his SONA.

After Duterte’s SONA, Alvarez, when asked who was the real House Speaker, said: “Ako pa naman yata.”

But Macapagal-Arroyo’s officially toppled Alvarez when, at Monday night, 184 House members voted to elect her as Speaker. Twelve abstained, while the others saw this move as invalid and illegal.

The former President, whose administration had been criticized for extrajudicial killings and scandals and corruption, became the 21st leader of the lower chamber.

Although she is the first woman to hold the post, Gabriela Reps. Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas denounced her takeover, saying “Filipino women do not tolerate corrupt people in power, even if it is a ‘She’.”

They said they would never forget the 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killing, 206 victims of enforced disappearances, more than 2,000 cases of illegal arrests, and thousands of forced evacuation during the nine-year presidency of Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Meanwhile, the status quo ushered the Filipino people to the horrors of the bloody drug war, Train Law, and ChaCha with possible No Election scenario. The same status quo maligns efforts of women to break free from bounds of misogyny and oppression from people in power and authority,” they added.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate slammed the “sham session” and Macapagal-Arroyo’s “illegal power grab.”

“What they did was a blatant and naked power grab. Sinagasaan ng kampo ni Rep. Macapagal-Arroyo ang proseso ng eleksyon sa Kongreso,” Zarate said.

“Sa pagpapalit ng liderato ng Kamara mula ay Speaker Alvarez patungo kay Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ay makikita na mas titindi pa ang atake sa kabuhayan ng mamamayan tulad ng sa TRAIN law,” he added.

The progressive lawmaker also stressed that the new Speaker is the primary proponent of opening up the country’s economy to foreigners through Charter change.

“What happened only shows how the interest of the people can be sacrificed to suit the selfish interests of those in power,” he added.

“This rump session also showed a deep and major crack in the majority coalition. While it exposes intense power intramurals, it is aimed at the same end game: chacha and perpetuation in office of those in power,” Zarate said.

“As it is now, it appears that the Duterte administration is rehabilitating a plunderer and massive human rights violator by making Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the speaker of the House and this is truly condemnable. First, they rehabilitated Marcos, now its Gloria,” he concluded.(

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