By: Morexette Marie B. Erram, Rosalie O. Abatayo July 24,2018 - 10:32 PM

Representative and former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo bangs the gavel after taking the oath as the new House Speaker at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Philippines, Monday, July 23, 2018.


Cebuano leaders close to Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo believe Cebu will get to reap some benefits from her assumption as the new leader of the House of Representatives.

The five congressional representatives in Cebu who voted to install Arroyo as House Speaker, three of whom are not even allied with the ruling PDP-Laban, may also gain political stock for voting for Arroyo, leading to the ouster of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the secretary general of PDP-Laban.

The question now being asked: With Arroyo now having taken the helm of the House of Representatives, would there be a shift of balance of power among Cebu politicians allied with the Duterte administration but who did not vote for her in the fight for the speakership?

Not so, said some Cebuano politicians, as they believed that the development would not have much impact in Cebu’s political scene.

Jojo Dizon, PDP-Laban Cebu province president, told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview that the ouster of their party’s secretary general, Davao Del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez would have no immediate effect in the political scene in Cebu.

This was also the observation of several key officials in Cebu including Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, Cebu 5th District Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano VI, Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgar Labella, who heads PDP–Laban-Cebu City Chapter, and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Alvarez was ousted as the House’s Speaker with 184 votes. He was replaced by a fellow PDP-Laban member, former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

With Arroyo leading the Lower House, however, officials in Cebu are also expecting closer ties between the local government units (LGUs) here and the national government, and that the province may reap more benefits.

“As I recall, when GMA was still president, she did not leave Cebu behind. I believed it is still too speculative to know how she’ll lead the House but the Cebuanos, who are close to her heart, will surely benefit from the new leadership,” said Cebu 5th District Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano VI.

Durano was one of the five Cebuano congressmen confirmed to have voted in favor of Arroyo as the new House Speaker during their joint session with the Senate last Monday (July 23).

The others were Cebu City Representatives Rodrigo “Bebot” Abellanosa (South District) and Raul Del Mar (North District), and Representatives Benhur Salimbangon (4th District) and Jonas Cortes (6th District).

Of the five, three are not members of PDP-Laban, namely, Del Mar, Abellanosa and Durano.

“I voted (in ousting) Alvarez because he was reiterating his statements on having a no-el (no elections) soon. Me and several of the members did not agree with it. We believed that it is still important for the elections to push through,” Durano explained.

On the other hand, Alvarez’s ouster and Arroyo’s ascension as House Speaker delighted Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

The mayor, who will turn 70 tomorrow, July 26, said it was one of his birthday wishes and was happy it was granted.

The mayor wanted Alvarez ousted, as he believed that the former Speaker was a major supporter of Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) Secretary Michael Dino, who has been at odds with Osmeña.

While saying that the change of House leadership would have no impact in the political landscape of Cebu City, Osmeña hoped Cebu will gain more support from the national government with Arroyo leading the House.

“She’s very close to the Cebuanos. She’s the only president who took her oath before Cebu City. She’s very close to the people of Cebu City,” he added.

The hope of local politicians of Cebu having a closer relationship with the national government, through Arroyo’s leadership, can be traced back to the time when she won “fair and square” in Cebu City and province during the 2004 presidential race.

Moreover, Arroyo took her oath in office in front of Cebuanos at the Cebu Provincial Capitol, which was administered by then and now retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., also a Cebuano.

Still speculations

Occidental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali told reporters in Metro Manila yesterday that Alvarez’s well-documented rift with presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte was a factor in the former’s ouster.

The feud started after Alvarez called Mayor Duterte an opposition, after she founded local party Hugpong ng Pagbabago, which absorbed former PDP-Laban’s members.

On the other hand, PDP-Laban president and Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III had also called upon the members of their party to rally behind Alvarez since he is still their secretary general.

But for Dizon, any outfall from the recent developments involving PDP-Laban in the national government that could affect Cebu remained as speculations.

“We’re not well-knowledged on the happenings at the national level. That’s why we cannot really say about how the local PDP-Laban is faring. Everything is still speculative,” Dizon said.

But he said that members of their group have nothing to worry about.

“PDP-Laban is still the ruling party; we’re still allies with the President who is our party chairman. And on top of that, there are no directives yet from the top that will
significantly affect our organization,” explained Dizon.

Garcia and Arroyo

Deputy House Speaker Gwyn Garcia, the representative of Cebu’s 3rd district, stopped the first attempt to install Arroyo as Speaker when she adjourned the House session in the morning of Monday, amid objections from pro-Arroyo representatives.

The failure to install Arroyo early on Monday resulted to an impasse when the joint Congressional session resumed in the afternoon, with Arroyo taking her oath as new House leader while

Alvarez was not in the session hall and was outside receiving President Duterte, who was to deliver his third State of the Nation Address (Sona).

The impasse stalled President’s Sona for an hour, with Alvarez eventually resuming his seat as House Speaker while the President delivered his Sona. However, as soon as the President left the Batasan grounds, the House representatives, in another unprecedented move, decided to reconvene and proceeded to install Arroyo as the Speaker by a majority vote of 184.

Garcia was believed to have chosen to stand by Alvarez as they were close allies in the House after the former’s party, One-Cebu, pledged allegiance with PDP-Laban in 2016.

But at the same time, Garcia is also “closely acquainted” with Arroyo as both served as the Deputy House Speakers in 2016, and both belonged to PDP-Laban.

In fact, Garcia had left the House after Sona and did not participate in the vote to install Arroyo as Speaker.

In a Facebook post last night, Garcia said she attended the majority caucus held past noon Tuesday at the home of Arroyo.

“Deputy Speaker Garcia signed the Manifesto of Support for Rep. Arroyo prepared by supporters of the former president-turned-Pampanga congresswoman. Congratulations Speaker Gloria M. Arroyo,” according to the post attributed to Garcia’s media affairs team.

They were also former political allies under Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi party before Garcia bolted the party to ally with then Vice President Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) in 2011.

Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, albeit shocked and confused by the change of House’s leadership, believed Arroyo’s leadership, especially her relationship with Garcia, will not have any significant impact in the province’s political landscape, particularly the 2019 gubernatorial race where Garcia, a former governor, is expected to run against incumbent Gov. Hilario Davide III.

“It is for the Cebuanos, and not for Arroyo, to tell if they will bring back Garcia to the Capitol or reelect Davide for his third term on the May 2019 polls,” said Magpale. /WITH CORRESPONDENT NORMAN MENOZA, USJ-R Intern Zena V. Magto AND INQUIRER.NET

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