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House coup plotters in disarray over plum posts

31 July 2018

Allies of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who had installed her as speaker of the House of Representatives have vowed to settle the leadership row by next week to restore order in the legislative chamber.

“We will try to resolve the majority leadership issue on Monday,” Rep. Michael Romero of 1-Pacman said in a television interview.
After that, he said, the leadership would attempt to settle the row involving the position of minority leader.

So far, only the position of Speaker has been filled following the ouster of former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in a chaotic leadership change on Monday before and after President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona).

With Arroyo’s clearance, deputy speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. has since been presiding over the session, while another deputy speaker, Fredenil Castro of Capiz, has been serving as acting majority leader.

Reports said Arroyo prefers Andaya, who had served as her budget secretary, to be the successor of Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, who was majority leader under Alvarez.

But a group of Arroyo allies is working for the retention of Fariñas, who told his colleagues last Wednesday that he was still majority leader since he has not been formally replaced.

Aside from the critical position of majority leader, up for grabs are the chairmanships of at least four committees whose chairmen either did not vote for Arroyo or are sticking it out with Alvarez.

They are Reynaldo Umali of Mindoro Oriental, committee on justice; Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, good government; Dakila Cua of Quirino, ways and means; and Roger Mercado of Leyte, constitutional amendments.

Albay’s Joey Salceda, senior vice chairman of the ways and means committee, is expected to replace Cua.

Other Arroyo allies want to grab other important committee assignments. A Lakas loyalist of hers from Mindanao is reportedly interested in the committee on accounts, which manages House funds.

The chamber has P11.2 billion for this year.

Batangas Rep. Elenita Milagros Buhain, whose father Eduardo Ermita served as executive secretary of the former president during her Malacañang days, chairs the accounts committee.

The minority leadership quarrel is a bigger headache for the new Speaker. The current minority leader is Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez. At least three colleagues want to wrestle the post from him: Edcel Lagman of Albay, Romero Quimbo of Marikina and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

Lagman heads the independent minority group Magnificent 7, while Quimbo, who is a deputy speaker and was part of the majority, is the leader of the Liberal Party in the House. Tinio belongs to the seven-member leftist Makabayan bloc.

Add to these three is the group of Alvarez, who said in a television interview over the weekend that he wanted to “join the minority but not the opposition.”

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