By Hannah Torregoza
Senators on Tuesday predicted that senators will close ranks the minute they sense that newly-elected House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will perpetuate herself into power as prime minister under a federal form of government that the Duterte administration has been pushing for.
“That, you can be assured that many of the senators will resist if this move is part of the plan to perpetuate herself to become the prime minister. Many of the people will oppose this, especially in the Senate,” Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito told reporters at the sidelines of the majority caucus at the office of Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
Ejercito made the comment a day after majority of the members of the House of Representatives successfully ousted Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as Speaker and replaced him with Arroyo during and after President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
The senator said he is certain that administration and opposition senators will cross party lines to unite and thwart such plans in the event the Duterte administration insists and pushes for the shift to a federal form of government.
Ejercito said he can only hope that an Arroyo-led House of Representatives would lead to better working relationship between the Senate and the Lower House which he admitted turned sour under Alvarez’s watch.
“I just hope whatever this move for her to be Speaker, would be to improve the working relationship between the House and the Senate,” Ejercito said.
“But if the motive is to shift to federalism and eventually, GMA (Arroyo’s initials) becomes the prime minister, I think a lot of people will object,” he pointed out.
Ejercito, however, said that while he respects the House’s prerogative to change its leadership, there is a glaring dissonance on Arroyo’s takeover of the lower chamber to President Duterte’s anti-corruption drive.
“I think the timing was bad because the whole world was watching, we had foreign dignitaries (as visitors). Then the mace was missing…Why did we have to stoop down to that level?” Ejercito lamented.
“But that’s the affairs of the House. That’s their decision. I won’t comment further on that. I just found it inappropriate because the dignitaries were waiting then,” he pointed out.
Ejercito pointed out that during the time of the Arroyo administration, the legitimacy of her leadership was always in question.
The Arroyo administration was also rife with scams and scandals, which Congress eventually investigated.
Arroyo was facing graft and plunder charges before the Supreme Court eventually ordered her release after the High Court granted her demurrer to evidence on the case she is facing related to the questionable release of P366-million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds during her presidential term.
“The thrust of the Duterte administraton is the anti-corruption drive and yet of course, she has baggages. There are ongoing cases against the former president and now congresswoman GMA. It doesn’t look good,” he pointed out.
“The President mentioned his relentless war against drugs and corruption. So with GMA’s assumption, and because cases are still ongoing… I think it will give a negative image or perception on the Duterte administration because of that,” Ejercito added.
“Maybe the situation at the House was that bad for GMA to become a viable candidate for Speaker. Maybe that’s the reason, because I’ve been hearing from some of the congressmen, that he (Alvarez) antagonized a lot of the lawmakers. The situation was this serious that she became a viable candidate for Speakership,” he stressed.
Asked if he would be among the senators who would oppose Arroyo from becoming prime minister, Ejercito said yes: “because that is already her personal agenda; that’s against the common good.”
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, in a separate statement, said if Arroyo’s ascension to the Speakership is a prelude to becoming prime minister “they better think twice because the Senate, both majority and minority have agreed to close ranks to defend and assert our role under the 1987 Constitution in revising or amending the same.”
“That, I can say with certainty and conviction,” said Lacson, who was a vocal critic of the Arroyo administration.
“Regardless, of whether it was Representative Arroyo or somebody else replaced the ousted Speaker, what happened yesterday is a strong argument against a parliamentary form of government where patronage politics, plays a major, if not the only, role in selecting our country’s top leader,” he said.