Senators peeved at House coup

MANILA, July 25 (Mabuhay) – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday admitted that some senators are not comfortable with the election of Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as overall leader of the House of Representatives.

However, Sotto said this is only “on a personal level” as he maintained that the Senate will continue to work with the House of Representatives under Arroyo’s leadership.

“We will do our job description no matter who is speaker, no matter who is congressman,” he said.

In what is described as a “coup,” Arroyo was formally elected Speaker of the House on Monday – the day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address –  replacing Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, a known Duterte ally.

Senators Grace Poe, JV Ejercito and Panfilo Lacson had earlier expressed apprehension over the election of Arroyo, a former President.

“Sa personality hindi sila kumportable,” Sotto said.

In 2001, then-Vice President Arroyo took over the presidency following the downfall of the administration of now-Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Ejercito’s father, amid corruption allegations.

In the 2004 elections, Arroyo defeated the late Fernando Poe Jr., Poe’s father, and Lacson in the presidential race that is said to be marred with irregularities. Fernando Poe had protested Arroyo’s victory.

“Hindi madaling maghilom ‘yung sugat na nangyari noong 2004,” Sotto said.

Despite this, Sotto said the Senate will not focus on “personality” in doing its legislative functions with the House.

“Ang pinag-uusapan dito ang trabaho namin at trabaho na manggagaling sa House. Doon kami magko-concentrate, hindi sa personality,” he said.

Sotto hinted that the Senate will block any move to appoint Arroyo as Prime Minister if ever the country changes its form of government to parliamentary.

Duterte to Arroyo at height of House turmoil: Don’t do this

“Sabihin nyo sa grupo nila GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) ayusin natin ‘to. Huwag nilang gawin ito.”

Those were President Rodrigo Duterte’s words at the height of the power struggle at the House of Representatives last Monday.

On Wednesday, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto provided more details of scenes behind the squabble that eventually led to the ouster of then-Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Sotto recalled the tension that gripped the House as they watched Arroyo from a monitor trying to take over the rostrum just before the President’s State of the Nation Address.

After a while, the President asked Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to talk to Arroyo’s group.

“Sabihin nyo sa grupo nila GMA na ayusin natin to. Huwag nilang gawin ito,” the Senate leader quoted Duterte as saying.

Medialdea, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, then went to Arroyo’s camp as instructed.

When they came back, Sotto said Duterte was informed of Arroyo’s supposed response: “I will inform my colleagues.”

“Maya-maya nang konti, sabi ni Presidente, papuntahin mo na dito, kausapin ko sya,” Sotto said, referring to Arroyo.

Sotto said Duterte and Arroyo had a one-on-one talk that lasted for a few minutes.

After Arroyo left the room, the Senate leader said, they asked the President what Arroyo had told him.

“Oo, ayusin daw nya,” Sotto again quoted Duterte as saying.

But after seeing from the monitor that the impasse had not been resolved after his talk with Arroyo, Duterte told Medialdea to talk to her again.

“Sabihin nyo mag-walk out ako pag di nila tinapos ito,” the Senate leader recalled Duterte telling the Executive Secretary.

“Sinabi ko kay President, pag nag-walk out kayo e kasunod na kami,” Sotto said.

But House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas reminded the President that he could not walk out of his constitutional mandate to deliver his Sona.

Sotto said Duterte’s threat to walk out eventually ended the impasse with Arroyo allowing Alvarez to continue presiding as Speaker of the House during the Sona.

After the Sona, the House convened again to formalize Arroyo’s election as Speaker.  (MNS)

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