After Arroyo allies, Alvarez meets with NPC

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez

MANILA - Incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez met with members of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) Wednesday evening after meeting with party-list and district congressmen which included allies of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Alvarez was seen in pictures of the event which were shared to the media by the NPC.

NPC spokesman Mark Enverga said the meeting was "purely a social event only. Cong. Alvarez attended our get-together."

Enverga said Albay Congressman-elect Joey Salceda was also present, but he did not take his oath as an NPC member.

READ: Arroyo allies back Duterte's bet for Speaker

Alvarez, who is presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte's candidate for House Speaker, appeared on ANC's "Headstart" Thursday morning.

He claimed that they have a comfortable number of 180 congressmen, adding 16th Congress Speaker Sonny Belmonte of the Liberal Party (LP) can support the Duterte administration by being House minority leader.

"Nacionalista, NPC, and NUP (National Unity Party) have decided to join the Coalition for Change. I am also talking to some LP members. Politicians who turncoat are fine, as long as they are loyal to the country," he said.

Alvarez talked about the perks of being with the majority. "We can't avoid personal requests for districts. Those requests may be prioritized," he said.

Alvarez is returning to public service 15 years after last serving as transportation secretary to then President Arroyo. During his time, Alvarez was haled to court for the NAIA-3 Piatco deal. The case was dismissed. 

"That was nothing but harassment. All cases related to it have been dismissed. At most, the Piatco contract was not perfect, but it was not illegal. It's not true that my wife's company gained profit from the Piatco deal," he said. 

His party, PDP-Laban, signed a coalition agreement with the Nacionalista Party (NP). It also signed a Covenant of Unity with Lakas-CMD. It is expected to do the same with the NPC and the NUP.

Alvarez said he only came back to help Duterte. "At first, I had no plans of running for congressman. I only wanted to help Duterte in his campaign. I only filed my certificate of candidacy 30 minutes before the deadline. Even during the campaign, Mayor Duterte was already calling me 'Speaker.' Sonny Belmonte and I are friends. Bata niya ako dati,'" he said.

According to Alvarez, the Duterte administration will not push for the Aquino administration's proposal for a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). 

"BBL will not be tackled in the 17th Congress because that will be part of the transition to federalism. They have the same concept. MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) was taken for a ride by the Aquino administration. There are provisions in the BBL that run contrary to the provisions of the Philippine Constitution. The ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) will have a better chance under a federal government. They can manage their own natural resources and economy. While waiting for a federal form of government, the Duterte administration can fully implement the Tripoli Agreement," he said.

Duterte had campaigned for his personal advocacy, federalism, as a solution to the peace problem in Mindanao and widespread poverty.

Alvarez said the incoming government will really focus on reforming the Constitution. "The president and House Speaker are both from Mindanao. We will deliver the message that we will change the form of government from unitary to federal. I believe in the two-party system where policies and principles are clear. It is possible to have that in the Philippines."

He pointed out that now, the central government determines the happiness and misery of the regions, unlike in a federal system where about 75 to 80% of provincial income will remain with the province and only about 25% will be given to the central government.