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REPASO 2018: The year of power struggle: Who’s in, who’s out?

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2018

(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)

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PDP-Laban appoints Pampanga Rep. Gonzales as party’s National Executive VP

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019

(L-R) Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr. and Sen. Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel

The Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) on Monday announced the appointment of Pampanga third district Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr. as the ruling party’s Interim National Executive Vice President.

Gonzales was appointed to his new role by PDP-Laban president and re-elected Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel.

His appointment paper was signed on June 13 but was only released to the media on Monday (June 17).

Gonzales previously served as PDP-Laban’s regional president for Central Luzon.

He has been reported as one of the lawmakers being considered by the ruling party to be its candidate for the House Speakership post in the 18th Congress.

Other contenders include Davao del Norte Representative and former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Taguig Representative Alan Peter Cayetano and Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco.

The PDP-Laban has yet to announce the name of its official bet for the speakership race.

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Pacquiao meets with Duterte on House speakership issue

by Maris Federez   |   Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2019

(L-R) President Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Manny Pacquiao | Courtesy : Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s Facebook page (March 28, 2018)

Senator Manny Pacquiao held a private meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday evening in General Santos City.

Here the two officials discussed about the ongoing Speakership tussle among three aspirants within the ruling PDP Laban party.

It is still uncertain, however, whether or not the Senator was able to convince the President to pick from their three party-mates the one who will start leading the House of Representatives next month.

Pacquiao is scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Saturday for the continuation of his training camp for his upcoming welterweight championship showdown with Keith Thurman on July 20.

Senator-elect Bong Go was with the President in his meeting with Senator Pacquiao.

“Consult sino PDP candidate sa Speaker. Sabi ni boss (Duterte), he will get back to Pacman in the coming days and mag usap lang sila,” Go said.

Go added that it was Pacquiao who consulted President Duterte on the speakership issue.

Go said that the President promised Pacquiao that he will come up with his decision by next week.

Last Tuesday, Reps. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque), Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales (Pampanga), and former House Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez (Davao del Norte) held a close-door meeting at Senator Pacquiao’s residence in Dasmariñas Village.

This is to decide among themselves the candidate of the party for the House Speakership. The three, however, failed to reach a consensus.

Palace Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, reiterated on Thursday that the President will not meddle in the selection of the next House Speaker.

“The President will not interfere. He never endorsed,” Panelo added. /mbmf

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Duterte seeks Philhealth reorganization

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Sunday, June 9th, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte seeks the reorganization of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) due to alleged corruption issues in the agency.

In a television guesting on Saturday (January 8), President Duterte said the P154 billion-worth of funds allegedly lost to anomalous PhilHealth claims is unacceptable.

“When I go back [to Manila], I’m making the announcement that I am maybe reshuffling the PhilHealth. For the sheer amount that was lost, I have to reorganize your entity,” he said.

The president also believes that the agency should be managed by a member of the military or a businessman to curb irregularities in collecting PhilHealth claims.

President Duterte also reiterated he trusts the integrity of PhilHealth acting president, Roy Ferrer.

“I do not have the slightest doubt about the integrity and honesty of Roy Ferrer,” he said.

The issue stemmed from a report made by Edwin Roberto, a former employee of WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center, that WellMed continues to file PhilHealth claims even after their patients have died.

Based on the initial investigation, the Dialysis Center had done the same mode of operation 28 times while 12 cases are still being verified by authorities.

According to Ferrer, there is an alleged “mafia” inside the agency which serves as an accomplice of several hospitals, clinics, and doctors engaged in said anomalous transactions.

“Gusto nila sila nandoon for more than 20 years (They want to stay [in PhilHealth] for more than 20 years) and now we are getting more and more whistle blowers that are coming out to bring forth what they are doing in their respective regions. Marami po mga tiwaling ginagawa po at iniimbestigahan na po natin ito, (there is a lot of corruption and investigations are underway),” he said.

Aside from the reshuffling, President Duterte has also ordered authorities to file charges against the owner of WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center and other involved government officials.(with reports from Joan Nano)

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