Fariñas received offer to abandon Alvarez before House coup

MANILA, Philippines – Former House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas said allies of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had offered that he turn his back on ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as early as March.

On Tuesday evening, July 31, Fariñas finally broke his silence on the dramatic House coup that unseated Alvarez, Davao del Norte 1st District representative, as Speaker and replaced him with Arroyo, former president turned Pampanga 2nd District representative.

In the process, Fariñas was removed as majority leader. He was replaced by Camarines Sur 1st District Representative Rolando Andaya, a close Arroyo ally.

Matagal na, no’ng March pa, nilalapitan na ko. [They asked me] if I would want to [still] be [the Majority Leader], palitan lang si Speaker, everything will be as is,” Fariñas said.

(They approached me a long time ago, in March. They asked me if I would want to still be the Majority Leader, only the Speaker will be unseated, everything will be as is.)

I said, ‘No, I’m sorry. Loyal ako as a person eh. I am the Majority Leader of Speaker Alvarez. I will be Majority Leader to him only.’ ‘Di ako papayag sa ganyan. And I told the Speaker about it,” he added. 

(I said, ‘No, I’m sorry. I’m loyal as a person. I am the Majority Leader of Speaker Alvarez. I will be Majority Leader to him only.’ I won’t agree with a plan like that. And I told the Speaker about it.)

After this incident, Fariñas said he and Alvarez personally met with President Rodrigo Duterte, whom Fariñas said was surprised legislators wanted to depose his lieutenant at the House. 

And then, nag-meet nga kami kay Presidente after that. Kami lang 3 and I told the President about that. So sabi ni Presidente, ‘O bakit? Wala naman kaming problema ni Bebot,’” said Fariñas. Bebot is Alvarez’s nickname.

(And then, we met with the President after that. It was just the 3 of us and I told the President about that. The President said, ‘Oh, why? I don’t have a problem with Bebot.’)

According to Fariñas, Duterte told him and Alvarez to make sure all lawmakers will attend the birthday party of Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco on April 5. 

It was during this party that Duterte talked to Arroyo and asked her if she was interested in the post.

At the time, Arroyo said she did not want to be Speaker. Duterte then told Alvarez he can relax as Arroyo did not want to replace him. 

One last offer from Pichay

But months later, discontent among lawmakers over Alvarez’s leadership style festered in the House. (READ: The women behind the fall of Alvarez)

With the backing of the formidable political forces of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, Arroyo’s allies were finally able to convince her to push through with the ouster plot. 

In the morning of July 23, Fariñas said he was approached by Surigao del Sur 1st District Representative Prospero Pichay Jr, a known ally of Arroyo, to warn him the coup was finally happening.

And then in the morning of July 23, pumunta sa akin si Congressman Pichay. Sabi niya, ‘I promised to you before, ‘pag seryoso na, sasabihin ko sa ’yo. Ito, seryoso na. Tanggapin mo na. Si Bebot lang naman ang papalitan,’” shared Fariñas.

(And then in the morning of July 23, Congressman Pichay went to me. He told me, ‘I promised to you before that if things are getting serious, I would tell you. It is serious now. Accept our offer. Only Bebot will be replaced.’)

Fariñas said he still could not accept the offer of the Arroyo bloc.

Sabi ko, ‘Pare, ‘di ako interested sa ganyan.’ Eh ako, syempre, ang Speaker, ang Majority Leader, dapat [may] trust and confidence ng Speaker ‘yan. So after that, they thought that I would cling to my position. Hindi,” said Fariñas. 

(I said, ‘Brother, I’m not interested.’ For me, the Majority Leader should have the trust and confidence of the Speaker. So after that, they thought I would cling to my position. They thought wrong.)

Fariñas confirmed some lawmakers had even circulated a manifesto to keep him as Majority Leader after Arroyo's election as Speaker. But it did not gain ground. 

Now Fariñas is embroiled in a 3-way battle for the minority leadership. Fariñas and 13 members of his bloc allied with Alvarez are claiming Arts, Business, and Science Professionals Representative Eugene de Vera is the acting Minority Leader.  

Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo of the Liberal Party-Makabayan-Magnificent 7 alliance disagreed, arguing they form the duly constituted minority with Quimbo as their leader.

But Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez, the Minority Leader under Alvarez, also insists he still holds the position despite voting for Arroyo as Speaker. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.