By Macon Araneta i FilAm Star Correspondent
Senate President Vicente Sotto III on July 30 admitted that some senators are not comfortable with Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) as the new House Speaker of the House of Representatives.
However, Sotto clarified that this is only “on a personal level” as he guaranteed the Senate will continue to work with the House of Representatives under Arroyo’s leadership.
“We will do our job description no matter who is speaker, no matter who is congressman,” stressed Sotto who served as Dangerous Drug Board chairperson during Arroyo’s administration.
But some senators have misgivings about Arroyo, even describing her an “excess baggage” in the anti-corruption drive of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Senators JV Ejercito and Antonio Trillanes IV noted that GMA is still being hounded by several cases of graft and corruption.
Aside from the scams and scandals that marred the administration of Arroyo, Ejercito noted the legitimacy of her presidency was always in question.
While choosing Arroyo as Speaker was the call of the House, he still considers Arroyo an excess baggage in the Duterte administration’s campaign on anti-corruption.
“There are on-going cases against former President and now Congresswoman GMA, syempre parang hindi magandang tingnan,” said Ejercito.
Arroyo succeeded Ejercito’s father, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, after being ousted from the presidency.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV does not see Arroyo a positive influence to society since she used to be in the face of corruption during her stint as Philippine President.
“I don’t think she was able to rehabilitate herself or her image along those lines,” stressed the opposition Senator.
Arroyo was linked to a number of corruption scandals such as the Hello Garci controversy where she was accused of massive cheating in the 2004 elections, the alleged misuse of multi-billion Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds, the NBN-ZTE deal, and the fertilizer fund scam, among others.
While Arroyo was placed under “hospital arrest” at the Philippine Veterans Hospital for the most part of the Aquino administration, the Supreme Court acquitted her of plunder over the alleged misused PCSO funds less than a month into the Duterte administration.
Trillanes also believes that Arroyo’s speakership would ultimately weaken Duterte’s presidency because their interests are not always aligned.
“Their interests are not the same. Duterte’s interest is to prolong his stay in power. GMA’s interest is to reclaim power. That’s diametrically opposed. At some point, it will clash,” also said Trillanes, adding that the change of leadership in the House was proof of that chamber’s lack of independence from Malacañang.
Sen. Grace Poe said she doesn’t need to repeat herself and remind people about the corruption and all of the other anomalies that happened during Arroyo’s term of office.
She said this is something that the people should be able to imagine. “If we turn parliamentary and I believe they will really push for that especially with (Arroyo’s) leadership, she would be either next in line to be the president of the country or at par with the president.”
Asked if she would rather have somebody totally different as House Speaker and prefer to have more of the same (leadership style), Poe replied, “not from the choices that they are presenting right now.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson also warned the rise to the speaker of the House could be a prelude to becoming Arroyo prime minister.
In the Senate, he stressed that both the majority and minority have agreed to close ranks to defend and assert their roles under the 1987 Constitution in revising or amending the same.
“That, I can say with certainty and conviction,” guaranteed Lacson.
Regardless of whether it was Arroyo or somebody else replacing the ousted speaker, Lacson said what happened on Monday is a strong argument against a parliamentary form of government where patronage politics plays a major, if not the only role in selecting our country’s top leader.