MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte would have no other Speaker of the House of Representatives than incumbent Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said Monday, amid speculation that some quarters may be moving to unseat Alvarez.
Roque issued the statement in his message before an estimated 28,000 new members of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino who were about to take their oath at the Malolos Sports and Convention Center in Bulacang province Monday.
The mass oath-taking in Bulacan was graced by three of the pillars of the ruling party: PDP Laban president, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III; Alvarez, who is secretary general, and party vice chairman, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.
In acknowledging Alvarez, Roque descibed him as: “Ang kaisa-isang Speaker ng Bayan; ang kaisa-isang Speaker na mahal ng ating Presidente, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.”
(“The only Speaker of the nation, the only Speaker dear to our President, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez”.)
Roque said any plot to unseat Alvarez would not succeed because Speaker Alvarez has the full trust and support of Pres. Duterte.
“Kung may naririnig kayong mga gahaman na naglalaway sa posisyon ni Speaker, sabihin ninyo maglaway pa sila dahil wala na pong ibang Speaker si Presidente Digong Duterte kundi si Speaker Alvarez,” Roque said.
(If you hear somebody salivating for the position of the Speaker, tell them to keep salivating because President Digong would not support any other Speaker aside from Speaker Alvarez).
Roque made the claim a day after Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro quashed, in a radio interview, speculation that former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was being groomed by some quarters to replace Alvarez. Castro said he has not heard of any such movement from the Arroyo camp, adding that the former president is not interested in a power grab, “and why would she?”
For his part, Alvarez on Monday urged the new members of the ruling party to support federalism.
He noted that it is the only one in the four major campaign promises of President Duterte that has yet to be fulfilled. The three others – the fight against illegal drugs, fight against criminality, and fight against corruption – have all been accomplished, Alvarez claimed.
“Federalism is all about power, money, and opportunity,” said Alvarez.
He explained that federalism will empower local government units to chart their own destiny, would allow LGUs to keep the larger share of the taxes collected, and open up development opportunities in the provinces.
For his part, Pimentel lauded the organizers of the event led by San Jose Del Monte Rep. Rida Robles and Malolos Mayor Christian Natividad for the massive turnout of applicants who attended the required PDP Basic Membership Seminar (BMS).
It was reported that as of 8:30 a.m. registered participants numbered over 28,000, with more participants arriving as the program started.
In his message to the new PDP members, Pimentel acknowledged that Duterte has fulfilled practically all of his campaign promises except federalism.
He said though that this is understandable because to accomplish this would require not just enactment of a regular law but a revision of the constitution.
Pimentel said that if the push for federalism is not completed by 2019, he would need additional support in the Senate to effectively support the move.
Aside from Roque, other PDP stalwarts present at the event who are being groomed for possible inclusion in the administration’s senatorial slate in 2019 were Reps. Reynaldo Umali, Karlo Nograles, Sajid Mangudadatu, Geraldine Roman, Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, and Monsour Del Rosario.
Also present in the event were presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino, former Manila councilor Greco Belgica, CEZA (Cagayan Economic Zone Authority) administrator Raul Lambino, and DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) Undersecretary Martin Diño.
Meanwhile, Pimentel said he and Alvarez had agreed to scrap the position of Prime Minister in the model of a federal form of government that PDP is espousing.
“Pero sabi namin ni Speaker, kasi baka maakusahan tayo na inihahanda natin si Speaker Alvarez bilang maging Prime Minister, so sabi namin huwag na muna,” Pimentel said.
(The Speaker and I agreed that we might be accused of grooming Speaker Alvarez to be the Prime Minister, so we said let’s not do that).
Instead, Pimentel said the PDP now proposes a federal-presidential form of government similar to that in the United States.