Alvarez-Arroyo showdown, lawmakers in pre-SONA talks

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Different blocs at the House of Representatives were in various meetings early Monday, July 23, following a reported plot to oust Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Several sources told Rappler several lawmakers met over the weekend to secure numbers to ensure Alvarez, Davao del Norte 1st Distict representative, will be unseated.

The plan is to install former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Pampanga 2nd District representative, as the new Speaker when the House resumed its session at 10 am.

But the session resumed and was suspended past 12 noon without any indication of an ouster move.

At 12:30 pm, Alvarez's allies moved to suspend the session and resume at 4 pm. The majority agreed, but as of 1 pm, Rappler sources said lawmakers were slowly being asked to return to the session hall.

Sara Duterte's plot?

No less than the President's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, wants Alvarez out. In February, she said her father would be "better off" without Alvarez as Speaker.

At 5:40 am, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told reporters an all-members caucus was going to be held at 8:30 am at the Nograles Hall at the Batasang Pambansa. The agenda, however, is the final draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law, which the bicameral conference committee pored over for final edits until late Sunday evening.

At least 76 lawmakers attended out of the more than 200 House members. (READ: Only 76 lawmakers attend majority House caucus)

Fariñas did not answer when Rappler asked if the plot against Alvarez would be discussed. He merely laughed when reporters asked him the same thing upon arriving at Nograles Hall.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez also called for a meeting with his bloc at 7:30 am.

AKO Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe, president of the party-list coalition, said he called a meeting among their members as well. He told Rappler they plan to discuss what they know so far about the ouster plot.

According to sources, it was Duterte-Carpio who had lobbied for the removal of Alvarez. Duterte-Carpio, however, has yet to comment on the matter as of posting time.

A source said lawmakers who have committed to vote for Alvarez's removal in favor of Arroyo are also meeting on Monday morning.

Alvarez got 251 votes when he was elected Speaker in 2016. Ironically, one of Arroyo's House allies ran against him in that race – Suarez.

Talks of a change in the House leadership first surfaced in March 2017.

It was during this month when Alvarez filed a graft complaint against his longtime friend Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr over his company's allegedly anomously deal with the Bureau of Corrections. The Speaker also filed a resolution calling for a probe into the said contract.

Floirendo did not attend Monday's caucus. He went straight to his office upon arriving at the House.

Asked by reporters if he knows about the move to unseat his political enemy, Floirendo merely said: "I heard about it."

Relations soured between Alvarez and Floirendo when their respective girlfriends had a reported spat in October 2016.

Alvarez has since used the might of the speakership against his former friend, removing Floirendo from the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan and cutting off his budget for 2018. – 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.

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