Alvarez out? It’s up to House; Duterte ‘willing’ to work with anyone—Palace

President Rodrigo Duterte is “willing and able” to work with anyone, Malacañang said on Saturday, amid persistent rumors of a leadership change at the House of Representatives.

But Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said a change of leadership in the lower chamber, particularly the possible election of a new Speaker, would be up to the members of the House.

“Well, the House organization is really dependent on members of the House of Representatives and the President is willing and able to work with anyone,” Roque told in an interview.

Despite being dominated by allies of Duterte, Roque said the President would not intervene in any leadership change at the House.

“If that’s really the wish of the House members, the President will respect it,” he said.

“In the end, it’s House members who will determine who their House leaders will be,” he added.

The Palace official said the important thing was for any House Speaker to support the President’s legislative agenda on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and federalism.

Arroyo is next? 

In December 2016, reports surfaced that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was seeking the Speaker position.

Arroyo had denied this and said she was “not interested” in the post.

Aside from Arroyo, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, son of Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., had also been rumored to be interested in Alvarez’s position or that of Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.

The rumors of a possible change of leadership at the House of Representatives gained traction in February this year after Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio issued scathing remarks against Alvarez after the Speaker supposedly called her newly-formed party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), as part of the opposition as it was not sanctioned by the President.

The Presidential daughter also alleged that Alvarez had boasted before a crowd that he, as House Speaker, could easily impeach the President.

Alvarez has denied issuing both statements.

The President had earlier distanced himself from the feud between his daughter and Alvarez.

Duterte still trusts Alvarez

Reports again surfaced that the House of Representatives would do the same to Alvarez after Sen. Vicente Sotto III took over as Senate President, replacing Sen.  Aquilino Pimentel III.

But Roque said Alvarez still has the trust and confidence of the President despite rumors of a coup d’etat to oust him as Speaker.

“I have no reason not to believe that he has the full trust and confidence [of Duterte],” he said.

Duterte has defended Alvarez in his public speeches, including the lawmaker’s extramarital affair and calling it “non-issue,” especially since Alvarez is not a Catholic.

In a speech last week at the 2018 Eid’l Fitr celebration in Davao City, the President again defended Alvarez, saying “he can take as many wives as he wants.”

“He was defending even the personal life of the speaker so it shows that not only that he has trust and confidence, he is also very fond of the Speaker, defending him from his own critics,” Roque said.

‘Making trouble’

Alvarez has accused some people of “making trouble” amid reports on the possible leadership change at the House.

“I know who they are,” he said in Filipino during a Radyo dzMM interview.

The lawmaker, however, did not identify these people.

Alvarez and Arroyo have not responded to as of posting amid these fresh developments. /je


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