Where did that mace go? Validity of Arroyo’s House takeover in question

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) –  About an hour after Pampanga Representative 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was elected Speaker on Monday afternoon, July 23, questions lingered about the validity of the oath she had taken.

When Arroyo was sworn in by Ang Kabuhayan Representative Dennis Laogan, the youngest lawmaker in the 17th Congress, the mace was missing from the plenary, giving Alvarez's allies a window to question the validity of the leadership change. 

The House of Representatives’ mace – the symbol of the chamber’s legislative authority – was removed just before Assistant Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc moved to adjourn the session earlier in the afternoon.

According to Section 16 of the Rules of the House of Representatives: "The Mace shall be the symbol of authority of the House and shall be displayed at the Speaker's rostrum when the House is in session. The Mace shall serve as the warrant for the Sergeant-at-Arms in enforcing order in the House."  

The sergeant-at-arms serves as the custodian of the mace. 

They turned off the microphone

Just before 3:30 pm, Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya started speaking at the plenary, where guests were gathered for President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address. Andaya was Arroyo's budget secretary when she was president.

He said 161 members of the majority bloc were present. Andaya then began explaining that the morning session should not have been considered adjourned at 12:30 pm, as he was objecting to Bondoc's motion to adjourn.

Andaya's microphone was suddenly cut off, but he continued speaking. 

A soundless video feed at the media room showed Arroyo-allied lawmakers gathered around Andaya. Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles then appeared to be calling the roll, with more and more lawmakers standing.

Several of Arroyo’s allies also started surrounding as she calmly sat on her chair. Soon, lawmakers clapped their hands. Arroyo was then escorted up the podium, where she took her oath. 

The Pampanga 2nd district representative gave a brief speech, cupping her hands so she could be heard in the chamber. 

Just before Duterte landed

Alvarez, however, was still the one who welcomed Duterte as the President arrived at the Batasang Pambansa just before 4 pm. Joining them was Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

It remains unclear if Alvarez will challenge the vote that transpired in the plenary and seek Duterte’s help to relinquish power in the House. But his allies are expected to contest the vote. 

After Duterte’s SONA, lawmakers stayed at the plenary hall to hold another session in a bid to formalize Arroyo’s speakership. She got a total of 184 yes votes, while only 12 abstained. 

Still, Sergeant-at-Arms Roland Detabali did not bring the mace to the plenary.

Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco told Rappler they decided to use a second mace kept at the House library. He and AKO Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr were met with applause as they brought the mace into the hall.

“They asked us to pick it up because we couldn’t find the original mace. The sergeant-at-arms wouldn’t bring it us. So we knew there was another mace at the archives, so that’s the one that we used,” he said. – 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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