The election of Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo as speaker of the House of Representatives spelled not just the beginning of the end of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez’s hold on power, but also of the ruling party PDP-Laban.
A source told The Manila Times pro-Arroyo PDP-Laban members were contemplating bolting the party to join the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (Alliance for Change) regional party led by President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
The President is chairman of PDP-Laban, a small national party that eventually grew in membership because of defections from various political parties after the 2016 elections. Alvarez serves as secretary general of PDP-Laban.
“PDP-Laban will be soon gone. You see, at least 50 percent of the PDP-Laban members in the House chose Arroyo to be Speaker. What does it say about strength or lack of it by PDP-Laban — a party wherein Alvarez serves as the secretary general?” said the source, who is privy to the plans of the pro-Arroyo bloc.
There were at least 142 members of PDP-Laban in the House of Representatives when Alvarez won the speakership in July 2016.
The same source identified Representatives Albee Benitez of Negros Occidental and KarloNograles of Davao City, both PDP-Laban members aligned with Sara Duterte, as prime movers of the exodus.
Both voted for Arroyo to replace Alvarez as speaker during Monday’s tumultuous reopening of the 17th Congress that saw the former president become the Philippines’ first woman House speaker.
Benitez was the representative of PDP-Laban when Arroyo officially took oath as speaker after President Duterte finished his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“Nograles will be running for the Senate, and Sara has already assured him of her support. Sara can succeed him here in Congress. Under such a scenario, Sara can easily win the speakership,” the source pointed out.
Arroyo, meanwhile, is on her third and last term as Pampanga representative.
Hugpong earned the ire of Alvarez who had been recruiting members en masse to boost the clout of PDP-Laban.
“Yes, Hugpong is a local party, but its status can easily be ironed out,” the source said.
Sara and Alvarez had a public squabble in February after the latter formed Hugpong. Alvarez called it an opposition party.
Sara accused Alvarez of betraying her father by bragging before people that as the speaker, he could unseat the President.
Alvarez denied this, but the bad blood between the two remained. Sara was said to have burned the lines to gather support for Arroyo’s election as House speaker before the SONA on Monday.
Benitez said the PDP-Laban would continue to exist, at least for now.
The Negros Occidental lawmaker issued a statement on Wednesday saying “we will maintain and further strengthen the majority coalition.”
“The Duterte administration’s legislative agenda, particularly the early passage of the proposed national budget, will be our priority. Eighty of the 119 PDP-Laban lawmakers were present at the caucus [with Speaker Arroyo]. Those who were not able to make it also pledged support to the new House leadership,” Benitez said.
Benitez said Alvarez wanted to remain PDP-Laban secretary general, a request that the former speaker had relayed through Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.