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Arroyo now a deputy speaker

/ 12:50 PM August 10, 2016
Rep. and former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrives at the opening session of Congress. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

Rep. and former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

(Updated) Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday said she is the newest deputy speaker in the House of Representatives.

“I’m a deputy speaker. Yes, yes,” Mrs. Arroyo, now a Pampanga congresswoman, said in an ambush interview after donating dialysis equipment at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

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Arroyo is back at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) on Wednesday not as a detention prisoner, but a free woman who donated hospital equipment.

READ: Arroyo back at VMMC to donate dialysis machines

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Arroyo was accompanied by her husband former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo in donating dialysis machines to VMMC this noon.

The turnover ceremony was held at the RDU department noon time.

Arroyo surprised reporters who were eating lunch at the hospital canteen after the donation. In a sit-down interview, Arroyo said she had a lunch meeting with the Central Luzon bloc two days ago and was nominated by the representatives as deputy speaker.

Arroyo said her nomination as deputy speaker of the Central Luzon bloc was part of the plan to divide the House of Representatives into 12 federal states to test the waters for a federal system of government.

READ: House to form 12 states in federal bid

This means Arroyo would be leading the Central Luzon federal state as deputy speaker.

Presently, there are five deputy speakers chosen to represent the different political parties in Congress: Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan; Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, Nacionalista Party; Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, National Unity Party; Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, Liberal Party; and Negros Occidental Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, Nationalist People’s Coalition.

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“We had our lunch together and our president (Bulacan Rep. Linabelle) Villarica said she told our fellow members, we would like to nominate our former President to be represented as (deputy) speaker. Okay, okay, approve, approve!” a delighted Arroyo said, laughing to herself.

Asked if this was part of the plan to divide Congress into federal states, Arroyo said: “Every region nominates its own deputy speaker.”

When asked if her position of deputy speaker was final, Arroyo said confidently, laughing: “I would presume that nobody would object!”

Under House rules, a deputy speaker is an ex-officio member of all House committees. The deputy speaker is the second highest official in the House of Representatives.

The deputy speaker gets to preside plenary sessions in the absence of the Speaker.

Other duties under the rules include:

  1. to assume the duties and powers of the Speaker when so chosen by a majority vote or by lot among themselves, as the case may be, in cases of absence or temporary incapacity of the Speaker, until such time that the Speaker returns to office and resumes work; and, in case of resignation, removal, permanent incapacity or death of the Speaker, until such time that a new Speaker is elected and qualified;
  2. to preside over the session when, even if present, the Speaker does not preside, or has not designated any other Member as temporary presiding officer;
  3. to monitor, coordinate and facilitate action on measures filed, requests, and other concerns of Members representing constituencies to which they may be assigned by the Speaker;
  4. to recommend to the Speaker appropriate policies, strategies and programs of action to improve the process of legislation and the quality of legislative measures, and to effectively address concerns of Members on matters affecting them, their constituencies, and the overall operations and integrity of the House;
  5. to appoint personnel of the House when so authorized by the Speaker; and
  6. to perform such other duties and functions as may be assigned or delegated to them by the Speaker.
Like a broken record, Arroyo reiterated that as a congresswoman, it is her duty to support the administration’s legislative agenda.
 
Arroyo shared her achievements as Pampanga lawmaker, having passed six bills into law even though she was incarcerated during her first two terms as congresswoman.
 
She said of the 250 bills she filed in Congress, 200 of those were filed when she was under hospital detention.
“Seven of my bills became six laws. I was active even then, I will be as active. It’s that I’ll be more physically present,” Arroyo said.
 
“Even when I was not physically present, how many congressmen get to pass six bills of seven bills?” she added.
Asked about criticisms surrounding Duterte’s legislative agenda, such as the bid to restore death penalty and his war against drugs, Arroyo turned defiant.
“I’m not going to comment on anything. As I said, my general direction is to support the legislative agenda of the President. Period, period, period,” Arroyo said, shaking her hands.

The former President won a seat in the House as Pampanga congresswoman while in detention for plunder over the alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010.

She held office at the VMMC for the duration of the last Congress.

Arroyo walked free at 6:30 p.m. on July 22, after the Supreme Court dismissed her plunder case. The High Court ruled that her approval of the P366 million intelligence fund releases were only ministerial and did not constitute an “overt act” to commit plunder.

READ: SC: Arroyo OK on fund release not overt act of plunder

Meanwhile, her husband faces a graft trial before the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division for allegedly selling two secondhand helicopters to the Philippine National Police and passing them off as brand new in 2009.

Mr. Arroyo has denied owning the two Robinsons R44 Raven I helicopters supposedly used by his wife in the 2004 presidential elections.

In the Fourth Division, the Arroyo couple are co-accused in a graft case involving a $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. JE

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TAGS: Arroyo, deputy speaker, Gloria Arroyo, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, House, House of Representatives
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