House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday defended his order to remove anti-death penalty lawmakers from key positions in the House of Representatives after several members expressed dismay over the apparent arm-twisting in the legislative body.
"That is a leadership-sponsored bill, and if you are part of the leadership, I think kailangan naman ay sumuporta ka doon sa liderato. Ngayon kung ayaw mo sumuporta, siyempre maghahanap tayo ng mga tao na talagang susuporta sa liderato," Alvarez said in a statement.
"Hindi po tayo namimilit kung ano po ang gustong iboto ng bawat miyembro. Nirespeto ko po yung kanilang desisyon, at sana respetuhin din naman yung policy na aking inilatag," Alvarez added.
(We are not forcing anyone to vote against their will. I respect their decisions, and I hope they will also respect the policy that I have laid out.)
Deputy Speaker for Central Luzon Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 11 House committee heads who voted against Alvarez's pet measure that reinstates capital punishment were stripped off their posts before the lower chamber went on a session break Wednesday evening.
The ouster of the 12 lawmakers from the House leadership is only the tip of the iceberg as more congressmen will be taken off key positions once Congressional sessions resume in May, Alvarez said.
"Yung mga hindi pa po na-declare na vacant na mga positions, iyun po ay itutuloy natin pagbalik po namin sa darating na May," he said.
(We will continue the declaration of vacant positions when we resume sessions in May.)
The House speaker said political parties that belong to the majority coalition will be given the leeway to choose replacements for the vacated posts.
"So far, only Basic Education Committee chairman Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero has been replaced after the Nationalist People's Coalition picked its definite nominee Cebu Rep. Ramon Durano," Alvarez said.
The House leadership is still in the process of evaluating the list of replacements submitted by other political parties to determine suitable candidates, Alvarez said.
Both the Liberal Party and the Makabayan bloc, whose members were among those removed from key posts, earlier said that they have yet to decide if they will break away from the House's supermajority.