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AMID ‘OUST SPEAKER’ TALK

Rody’s ballad breaks political ice at party

Distinguished guests during the Salo-Salo Kasama ang Pangulo Dinner Concert at the Sofitel Harbor Garden Tent applaud after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte rendered a duet with the performers on April 5, 2018. ALBERT ALCAIN / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Duterte himself broke the ice between Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at a glitzy dinner party on Thursday night.

For weeks leading to the gathering called “Salu-Salo Kasama ang Pangulo,” speculation was rife that an ouster plot was brewing in the House of Representatives, with Arroyo supposedly consolidating her forces to unseat Alvarez.

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But it appeared that the two officials finally cleared the air at the Sofitel hotel party organized by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, where the guests feasted on steak and wine while A-list entertainers performed on stage.

Surprise number

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The show even segued to a surprise number from the President, who serenaded the political rivals with his favorite song “Ikaw,” together with pop balladeer Martin Nievera.

In a phone interview with the Inquirer on Friday, Velasco recalled how the President poked fun at the awkward moments between Arroyo, lately 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 in his speech, according to Velasco.

“Don’t worry. I’ve talked to GMA (Arroyo’s initials). She has no ambitions to become Speaker,” the Marinduque congressman quoted the President as saying.

 ‘In good spirits’

Despite the teasing he got, the Speaker “was in good spirits for the rest of the night,” Velasco told the Inquirer. “He stayed until the very end.”

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The congressman, the son of Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., said he assured Alvarez that he had no hand in any supposed coup in the House—and “he believed me.”

“In the beginning, I don’t think there was any ouster plot 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 (Arroyo) was planning to be the next Speaker,” Velasco said. “To my mind, I wasn’t even doing anything.”

Alvarez did not respond to the Inquirer’s text messages asking for comment.

Other guests

Also at the party were the President’s partner Honeylet Avanceña and his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and businessmen Ramon Ang and Manny Pangilinan.

The other performers included singers Jed Madela, Zsa Zsa Padilla and Lani Misalucha.

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TAGS: Alvarez, Arroyo, duterte, House speakership, Singing
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