The 17th Congress opens its Final Regular Session Monday, with talks of a leadership change sweeping the House of Representatives.
Multiple sources inside and outside the House have advanced the idea that the leadership change was supposedly finalized over the weekend through efforts led by the President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and her political surrogates. The president’s daughter has yet to comment.
The same sources also tipped off ABS-CBN that lawmakers have scheduled meetings Monday morning, before the session purportedly to finalize the election of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the 21st Speaker of the House of Representatives.
If Arroyo becomes Speaker, she will be the first female to hold the position.
The House minority bloc was meeting as of posting, with other blocs expected to follow before the 8:30 am all members caucus called by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas.
Farinas told House media that he called the caucus to present the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law.
Arroyo is on her final term as representative of Pampanga’s 2nd District and if elected Speaker, will only have the 3rd regular Session of the 17th Congress to serve.
But Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin of AAMBIS-OWA party-list said Alvarez is currently "very stable."
"As far as I know, wala pang movement as of this hour, at 8 in the morning. Personally, I'm very happy with how Speaker Alvarez led the house," she told ANC's Headstart.
"If there is any change at all, only...with the blessing of the President," she said.
If the succession happens, Duterte may have a different set of Congressional Leaders behind him when he delivers his 3rd State of the Nation Address Monday.
Aquino Pimentel III of Cagayan de Oro yielded the Senate Presidency to Vicente Sotto III in May. The Senate President and the House Speaker preside over the joint session of the President’s State of the Nation Address.
Alvarez had long been hounded by rumors that he will be replaced by Arroyo as early as his first year as speaker. The rumors gained traction as Arroyo was freed by the Supreme Court after it dismissed the plunder case for the alleged misuse of PCSO funds.
The rumors died down when she was elected Deputy Speaker for Central Luzon in August 2016, but surfaced anew after Alvarez figured in a fight with his former friend and ally, Davao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. The fight supposedly was caused by their feuding partners but escalated when Alvarez launched a House probe on the allegedly anomalous joint venture agreement between Floreindo’s family owned corporation and the Justice Department for a banana plantation in the Davao Penal Colony. Alvarez would eventually sue Floirendo before the Ombudsman for the same case—which is now pending before the Sandiganbayan.
Talk of a leadership change gained traction in February 2018, when Alvarez drew the ire of the president’s daughter. In a series of social media posts, Mayor Duterte lashed out at Alvarez as she took exception to statements attributed to the Speaker by a Davao local news paper article.
Mayor Duterte posted these in a series of posts on her official Facebook account, telling Alvarez that he "messed with the wrong girl.”
Duterte's feisty daughter also taunted Alvarez, saying he was "not a leader. He will never be a leader. Many congressmen can do more than what he is delivering for the President.”
“The Philippines will be a better country if he is not Speaker. PRD will be a stronger President without Alvarez,” the mayor told ABS-CBN News.
In April 2018 Mayor Duterte and Alvarez briefly came face to face and shook hands before President Duterte at a gathering for administration allies in Pasay City last night, April 5, 2018.
This was during the president’s speech at a dinner hosted by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco at Sofitel Philippine Plaza.
The Davao City Chief Executive told ABS-CBN in a statement, “Yes, shake hands. No talking. My mother told me to be kind to Speaker Alvarez. PRD told me not to harbor anger. I just want to focus on Davao City.”
In his own chamber, Alvarez unseated 11 of his own allies from leadership positions after they voted against the death penalty bill last year. Among them was Arroyo.
In December, A reliable ABS-CBN News source who asked not to be quoted confirmed that about 24 district and party-list representatives have no infrastructure project under the GAA.
Alvarez claimed that not all 24 lawmakers named in a list that circulated among House reporters lost their projects for their districts.
The following month, Alvarez courted controversy again when he threatened zero budget for those who would not back the cause of federalism, before he walked it back as a joke.