MANILA – Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s (GMA) rise to the post of Speaker of the House under less-than-ideal circumstances last week did not receive the warm welcome the former president was expecting.
There is little doubt that GMA orchestrated the removal of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez Monday last week, on the day that President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA).
President Duterte did not hide his displeasure at the ill-timed removal of his close ally Alvarez, even threatening to walk out of his own SONA which had been delayed due to the intramurals between the GMA faction, on one hand, and the Alvarez group, on the other.
Having been charged with corruption and placed under hospital arrest for several years, she had long been suspected of eyeing a return to power to clear her name by targeting the Speakership of the House of Representatives, where she had been elected after stepping down as president.
For one, her coup caused a serious rift within the administration party PDP-Laban, which she joined last year. The party is led by President Duterte as chairman with senator Koko Pimentel – ousted as Senate president last month — as president and Alvarez as secretary general.
Immediately after GMA assumed the post of Speaker, a splinter group from the PDP-Laban held an assembly that unseated Pimentel and Alvarez, replacing them with her allies.
Among GMA’s critics were former President Noynoy Aquino, who questioned what she could accomplish as Speaker when she is actually serving what should be her final term as member of the House of Representatives. There are only a few months left for the 17th Congress, after which a new set of lawmakers will be elected in the November elections, where she may not run by law.
Senator Grace Poe likewise did not view her assumption of the 4th highest post in the land, as it could pave the way for her “return to the presidency.”
Senator PanfiloLacson, meanwhile, warned against any move to amend the 1987 Constitution in order to pave the way for GMA to become prime minister under a federal/parliamentary form of government. Lacson said the power grab in the lower house was “a strong argument” against shifting to a parliamentary form of government.
Critics raised the suspicion that GMA will help fast-track the shift as it would be the only way for her to remain in power.
Allegations of graft and corruption hounded GMA’s presidency with her husband, former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, and son Mike Arroyo, being accused of receiving kickbacks in numerous government projects. However, it was only GMA who was formally charged before the Sandiganbayan. The charges were dropped during the early months of the Duterte presidency.
GMA served as president for nine years, first completing the term of ousted President Joseph Estrada, then being elected as president by defeating the late Fernando Poe Jr. Allegations that she cheated the popular actor were seemingly supported by her public apology, where she admitted having discussed with a Comelec commissioner on how to guarantee that she would win by at least one million votes. Coincidentally, her margin of victory over FPJ in the 2004 polls was roughly one million votes.