(L-R) House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Ousted Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III
Tension filled the House of Representatives hours before President Rodrigo Duterte’s third state of the nation address (SONA) on July 23.
Several members of the House wanted the ouster of then House Speaker and Davao Del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez to give way to Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo.
Later on, the microphones at the podium went off preventing Arroyo allies to speak. The HOR’s mace or the official seal was also nowhere to be found.
But nothing could stop the pro-Arroyo lawmakers as they held their own voting and elected Arroyo as the new Speaker of the House.
The commotion delayed the President’s SONA for an hour tagging Arroyo as ‘scene-stealer’ and ‘attention grabber’.
The President’s SONA went on with Alvarez still the House Speaker alongside the Senate President at the podium.
The SONA went smooth as if nothing happened but after the President left the Lower House, over 200 congressmen resumed an extended session to formalize the voting.
184 congressmen voted ‘yes’ to Arroyo while 12 abstained.
“There are no rules being followed, walang saysay ito,” argued Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Minutes later, Arroyo sworn into office.
Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (right, wearing pink) being sworn into office by Ang Kabuhayan Rep. Dennis Laogan
But the drama did not end there because what followed next was dubbed as the ‘House Minority squabble’.
Most members of the House opposed Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez to be the House Minority leader as he was among the ‘front runners’ of the Arroyo-for-Speaker move.
“This will be a clear culpable grave abuse of discretion on the part of the leadership of the house to recognize Danny Suarez as a minority leader because it would be and admission by the leadership that they conspired with the minority to over throw Alvarez,” argued then House Majority Floor Leader Rep. Rudy Fariñas during the House chaos on July 23.
“Kapag ang pumili at bumasbas sa minority ay majority, ano ang maaasahan natin dito hindi tunay na oposisyon. Sabi nga company union,” said ACT Teachers Party list Rep. Antonio Tinio on August 7.
“We need to take it to the Supreme Court para may stability rin para sa House. Nakakahiya para sa ating kongreso na ang minority leader ay in-appoint ng majority,” argued Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo on August 7.
But in the end, Suarez prevailed and the House leadership approved him as the House Minority Leader.
Arroyo allies were criticized for being ‘power grabber.’
“Nakakahiya na pinapakita natin sa lahat na iyong pag-wrestle ng power, parang in full public view,” expressed Vice President Leni Robredo.
But still, the lawmakers maintained that Arroyo’s and Suarez’s position were in accordance with the law.
“There is nothing to correct we stand by our position that the proceedings yesterday were valid, legal and binding, period,” maintained Former Davao City Representative Karlo Nograles on July 24.
After a week, Arroyo and Alvarez had a one-on-one talk to iron out things between them. Arroyo, however, refused to give details on what transpired in the meeting.
When asked about the alleged power struggle, Alvarez said he already moved on.
“Okay naman ako sinabi ko nga ako the pain lasted for only 24 hours after that wala na,” he said in an interview on August 2.
Malacañang, meanwhile, clarified that President Duterte has nothing to do with the squabble in the HOR as the decision has been made purely by the congressmen.
Similar to the Lower House, the Senate of the Philippines also made a sudden turnover of leadership.
Sixteen senators voted to name Senator Vicente Sotto III as the new Senate President in lieu of Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.
In an unusual move, Senator Pimentel himself nominated Sotto for the position.
Pimentel said he decided to step down to prepare for his bid in the 2019 elections but reports said the main reason was Pimentel’s inaction on some priority bills such as the Duterte administration’s tax reform and the revival of death penalty.
On December 11, the Lower House passed the proposed Charter change but the Senate remains cold on the matter.
The Supreme Court also had its twists and turn when former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted via quo warranto plea filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Calida argued that Sereno failed to submit her Statement of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN) required of a government official. Without this, Calida m, Sereno’s appointment as chief justice was invalid.
Eight magistrates voted for Sereno’s ouster while six opposed.
Justice Teresita De Castro took over the SC and was named the first (official) woman and the shortest serving chief justice in the country.
De Castro retired after six months in office and was replaced by Justice Lucas Bersamin. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Grace Casin)