Alvarez seeks redemption, joins 5 others in race for next Speaker
MANILA, Philippines — This early, the race for the next Speaker is on.
Flush with a commanding victory in Davao del Norte province, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has declared his intent to reclaim the seat grabbed from him by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last year.
“Yes, I will run for Speaker again,” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
He said he would be up against “formidable” rivals for the speakership, among them Representatives-elect Lord Allan Velasco of Marinduque, Martin Romualdez and Lucy Torres-Gomez of Leyte, Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig-Pateros, and Loren Legarda of Antique.
“They are all strong,” said Alvarez, secretary general of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Romualdez said it was up to his colleagues in the House to decide whom to choose as Speaker.
“If I will be chosen by my fellow congressmen, then it would be a new era for Region 8,” Romualdez said.
The newly proclaimed congressman said his priorities include eradicating poverty and illiteracy in his district, which consists of Tacloban City and the towns of Babatngon, Palo, Tolosa, San Miguel, Alangalang, Santa Fe and Tanauan.
Alvarez said he expected a showdown between and among the forces of PDP-Laban, Nacionalista, Lakas and Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the regional party of President Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
The former Speaker, whose political influence was seen to have waned after a conflict with the President’s daughter, said he was banking on crucial alliances in the previous Congress and his past performance as the House leader to secure victory.
On Monday, Alvarez proved his strength after he was reelected representative of his province’s first district in a landslide win over Gov. Anthony del Rosario of Hugpong.
Not only that, Alvarez’s political rival, second district Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr., who previously expressed a desire to run for Speaker, lost his reelection bid in another blow to Hugpong.
“No, I don’t see it as victory against Hugpong. That’s not the issue,” said Alvarez, who has refused to be drawn into a public quarrel with the younger Duterte.
“You just have to serve well and the people will not abandon you. No amount of money can convince them to vote for the other candidates,” he said.
The next Speaker, according to Alvarez, should show the right kind of leadership in advancing priority legislation. He noted that only three years remained of the Duterte administration.
Good ties with Senate
“The House leadership should have a good relationship with the Senate,” he said in a barbed comment directed at Arroyo.
Alvarez declined to comment on Arroyo’s performance as Speaker, but pointed out that the House-Senate rift over pork that delayed the passage of the 2019 budget occurred on her watch.
Arroyo and her allies staged a coup in July 2018 and unseated Alvarez reportedly at the instigation of Sara Duterte, who called up lawmakers to gather support for the former President.
Alvarez acknowledged the major role the younger Duterte might play in the speakership battle.
“Ultimately the next Speaker will be the one who has the blessing of the President or his daughter by extension,” he told the Inquirer.
“It’s a different ball game in the House. In the Senate, they’re more independent, so the endorsement of Malacañang doesn’t matter as much. But in the House, you would really need the President’s blessing to gather support,” he said.
Alvarez said he remained supportive of the President, even though Mr. Duterte did not back him in his reelection campaign. The President even raised his opponent’s hand during Hugpong rallies.
“Honestly, I didn’t ask for his support because this time, I wanted to check if my constituents truly loved me and if I could stand on my own,” he said.
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