Duterte breaks ice between Alvarez, Arroyo at dinner concert
It turned out to be President Duterte himself who broke the ice between Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at a glitzy dinner party on Thursday evening.
For weeks, speculations about the VIP-only gathering organized by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco had fanned the flames of an ouster plot in the House of Representatives, with Arroyo supposedly consolidating her forces to unseat Alvarez.
But it seemed the two officials finally cleared the air at the ritzy Sofitel that night as guests feasted on steak and wine while A-list entertainers performed on stage.
Velasco, in a phone interview with the Inquirer, recalled how the President poked fun at the awkwardness between Arroyo, who had become a fixture at his official functions, and his bosom buddy, Alvarez.
“Speaker, parang matamlay ka diyan (you seem glum over there),” Mr. Duterte teased his friend during his speech, according to the Marinduque congressman.
“Don’t worry. I’ve talked to GMA (Arroyo’s initials). She has no ambitions to become Speaker,” Velasco quoted the President as saying.
Malacañang, at the request of the organizers, did not provide reporters a transcript of the President’s speech at the event.
Contrary to the President’s teasing, the Speaker “was in good spirits for the rest of the night,” Velasco told the Inquirer. “He stayed until the very end.”
In a quiet moment between the two, he said he assured Alvarez that he had no hand in any supposed coup in the House.
“He believed me,” said Velasco, the son of Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.
Alvarez did not respond to the Inquirer’s messages asking for comment.
Velasco sparked a maelstrom of speculations as details of the hush dinner concert at Sofitel emerged little by little in the past weeks.
“In the beginning, I don’t think there was any ouster plots happening. But as people learned about the dinner party, people were suddenly saying I wanted to be the next Speaker, or that former President GMA was planning to be the next Speaker,” he said.
“To my mind, I wasn’t even doing anything,” Velasco said.
In attendance at the party were the President’s partner Honeylet Avanceña and daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
The performers included Martin Nievera, Zsa Zsa Padilla and Lani Misalucha.
Asked how much the evening cost him, Velasco said a “couple of friends” contributed to the expense. “Definitely we spent for the party,” he said, declining to give a figure.
He insisted that there was no political meaning to the event.
“It was just me and my wife with our friends and close allies. It was just to show our support to the President, and that we really believe in the President.”
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