House holds first session under Arroyo leadership

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — The House of Representatives held its first full session under the speakership of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Tuesday.

Former President and now House Speaker Arroyo was in high spirit as she faced the media a day after Monday's dramatic ouster of Davao Del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez as Speaker.

Arroyo expressed her gratitude to her colleagues and laid down her priorities as Speaker at her first full session – the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the assistance for districts affected by recent typhoons and monsoon rains.

"It is also a speaker's job to help the Congressmen to be able to assist their constituents when most needed. Right now, I'm very glad that there will be an end to politicking soon this afternoon so that we can attend to the calamities of the various districts that have been hit," Arroyo said.

Upon resumption of session, the ratification of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the Bangsamoro Organic Law was considered and approved.

And contrary to the drama on Monday, there were no controversies during the first session.

Deputy House Speaker Rolando Andaya explained, the BOL's ratification was the reason why congressmen insisted on holding a session on Monday before President Rodrigo Duterte's State of the Nation Address.

He said they wanted to elect a new Speaker and they wanted to have the BOL ratified so the president can sign it into law during his SONA.

Unfortunately, things hit a snag.

"Ang problema, yung may hawak ng papeles, tumakbo, hindi binigay yung papeles. Wala kaming maipresenta...gusto sana naming maayos ang transition para maipasa ang BOL. Nagpadala ng emisaryo sa kampo nila para mapakita ang signatures, ang problema pinalayas sa kwarto at hindi na nakapagusap," Andaya said.

Before Tuesday's session, Arroyo along with over a hundred allies met at her house in Quezon City to discuss the House's transition to the new leadership among other matters.

A new majority leader was being considered. Among the choices are Andaya, Second District of Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro, and Iloilo Representative Arthur Defensor.

Andaya said for now, there would be no changes in committee chairmanships, although this was inevitable as some committee chairmen are planning to join Alvarez in the minority bloc.

Alvarez a no-show

Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, meanwhile, was nowhere in sight during the House's first session.

But his ally, Justice Committee Chair Reynaldo Umali, said Alvarez looked composed when they met earlier at the House of Representatives.

Umali believes Alvarez's ouster hit the former Speaker hard after realizing 184 or a majority of House members voted for Arroyo. He said it was only a matter of time before Alvarez accepted Arroyo's election.

The lawmaker also doubts Alvarez knew this was coming, saying this was a "blitzkrieg" or a sudden demolition attack.

Umali said they could not do anything about what he called the tyranny of the majority, but believed it would not do the institution any good if Alvarez clung to his post.

When asked if the Alvarez bloc would question Arroyo's election, he said they would still have to decide.

Umali added Alvarez was looking forward to being the leader of the minority after they bolt the majority. 

Of this development, Caloocan Representative Egay Erice said it would be a "highly anomalous situation simply because GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) is also PDP."

In a statement Tuesday, Erice said, "Where in the world can you find a parliament where the majority  leader and the minority leader belongs to the same political party. Its a mockery of the legislative process which is supposed to guarantee check and balance."

He urged Arroyo to prevent this from happening, saying she had the responsibility to protect the "real minority, otherwise this congress will be the same as the rotten Alvarez House which we ousted."