House leadership tussle not connected to Cha-cha: lawmaker

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 24 2018 09:53 AM

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MANILA - The change of leadership in the House of Representatives was not in any way connected to moves to amend the charter, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who replaced Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez as the House speaker, is not even part of the chamber's committee for constitutional amendments, said Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro.

"I have not observed her talking about any issue about constitutional amendments. I have never heard her saying she is interested to be elected under the new constitution if ever that we adopt a new constitution," Castro told ANC's Headstart.

"I think it was an event purely on the basis of the desire of the majority to change the leadership in the House of Representatives," he said.

Arroyo was initially sworn in as the Speaker minutes before President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address at the House rostrum in an apparent unofficial session, while Alvarez was waiting to welcome the chief executive in another part of the chamber.

After the President's annual address to Congress, House lawmakers remained in the plenary hall to again vote on the change of leadership. A total of 184 representatives elected Arroyo, while 12 abstained.

She took an oath as the new leader later that night when the House mace was finally placed in front of the session hall.

NO-EL STILL IN 2019?

Alvarez, a longtime ally of Duterte, earlier floated the suggestion to postpone next year's midterm elections to give lawmakers more time to deliberate on amendments to the 1987 Constitution.

Asked if Arroyo, who is on her last term as a district representative, will espouse the same idea, Castro said: "I don’t think so."

He added that the election of a new speaker was "isolated to change the leadership."

Arroyo, who was president from 2001 to 2010, has been the representative of the second district of Pampanga since she stepped down from the chief executive post.

She was detained for nearly 4 years for plunder charges, but was released in July 2016 after the Supreme Court ruled there was no evidence to hold her liable for the questioned release of P366 million intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

The high tribunal in 2017 dismissed the plunder case with finality.

With her recent election, she will be the first female leader of the House of Representatives.