Speaker Alvarez, roiling in the deep

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok April 03,2017 - 09:07 PM


Less than a year after assuming the top position in the House of Representatives, Davao del Norte first district Congressman and PDP Laban Secretary General Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez finds himself in a firestorm of his own making.

A girlfriend’s spat with the girlfriend of his political patron and benefactor, friend-turned-nemesis Davao Congressman Antonio Floirendo Jr. (Davao del Norte, 2nd district), is said to have triggered the controversy, but lawmakers themselves will say it goes deeper than that. I will skip the details of the scandal, suffice it to say that because Speaker Alvarez has so flaunted his womanizing by uttering statements that mock the law of the land and the legal profession to which he has sworn to serve and uphold, he finds himself in very deep trouble.

Some opposition lawmakers are mulling an ethics complaint against him, including a disbarment case before the Supreme Court. The twin moves will certainly put on a lot of pressure on Alvarez who earlier basked in the glow of having successfully shepherded the passage of House Bill 4727 or the death penalty bill. The decisive majority (216 in favor, 54 against and 1 abstention out of 227 lawmakers) earned for Alvarez plaudits from President Duterte himself.

The House leader had already prepared for a bruising campaign over another contentious measure in line with the current administration’s legislative agenda, in particular the shift from a presidential unitary to a federal form of government, when he was unnerved by reports that Rep. Floirendo is campaigning to have him ousted from the House leadership. Floirendo comes from a very wealthy family in Davao and is said to have contributed P100 million to Duterte’s campaign kitty in the 2016 presidential polls, ditto with Alvarez’s congressional bid during the same election year.

Alvarez is said to have turned off some members of the majority for turning the debate on the death penalty measure as a numbers game or “approving without thinking”. His threats to strip important administration allies like former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of their ranked positions were likewise viewed as dictatorial. He failed to consider that it was during GMA’s watch that capital punishment was abolished. But for Alvarez, nothing is important except political expedience. He told the media that he has no qualms replacing GMA as Deputy House Speaker for ditching the measure.

Apparently, congressional spouses are also up in arms against the Speaker. A published article has it they are mad at Alvarez for trying to eject the Congressional Spouses Foundation, Inc. (CSFI) from the Batasan building where the organization holds office. CSFI is currently chaired by Emelita “Emily” Alvarez, the Speaker’s estranged wife. According to a Manila broadsheet, his girlfriend, Jennifer Maliwanag Vicencio, is behind moves to kick out the CSFI from its offices in the Batasan.

Moves to oust Speaker Alvarez have really gained traction if we consider his filing a graft case against Rep. Floirendo. He is sending signals that the same fate would befell House members who will go against his will, but it looks like he is hitting the panic button.
There’s something to be said about the style or character of the House Speaker.

In 2001, Alvarez was Secretary of Department of Transportation and Communication under the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He quit the DOTC office in 2002. Three years later, a case related to his much-earlier stint as Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) senior assistant general manager (1995 to 1997) hounded him.

Alvarez was implicated in a graft case for awarding the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract to Philippine International Air Terminals Co Inc. (Piatco). The case was filed by the MIAA-NAIA Association of Service Contractors (MASO) after he was alleged to have profited from the contract through Wintrack Builders, a company where his wife, Emelita, had significant control. Piatco had contracted part of excavation work to Wintrack Builders, a deal which reportedly made for the company some P76.49 million in profits.

On March 9, 2010, then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who like Alvarez, was also closely associated with GMA, dismissed the case due to “lack of evidence”. I wonder if Alvarez recalled this case when he threatened to sack GMA from House leadership roles and made comments as if he is president of Congress.

* * *

The Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Carcar City invites devotees to a Holy Week exhibit of the rich Christian heritage of the southern city titled, “Kalbaryo: Gugma sa Diyos, Kaluwasan sa Katawan”. The exhibit features century-old images that prominent families in Carcar have tended to for generations.

Fr. Marlowe Patigdas, who heads the parish Worship Committee, told this corner the exhibit hopes to teach parishioners about the life and story of the so-called elect in heaven. The exhibit opens after the 8 a.m. Palm Sunday Mass, April 9, until Holy Monday, April 10.

Kudos to Fr. Marlowe, Monsignor Carlito V. Pono, H.P., parish team moderator, and members of the parish pastoral council chaired by Madam Merlea Cabalquinto for this great and very timely project.

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TAGS: Alvarez, deep, House, including, roiling, Speaker, trouble

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