By Mario Casayuran
If only for the timing and manner the coup d’etat in the House of Representatives was carried out, the leadership take over by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was “awkward, ugly, low, and disgraceful.”
“In a manner of speaking, even the traditionally symbolic mace was in a maze yesterday (Monday) at the BatasanPambansa not knowing whose authority it would represent between the two contending personalities,” Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, a member of the Senate majority bloc, said.
The missing mace is reminiscent of a similar incident in 1991 where then Senate President Jovito R. Salonga was ousted by Senator Neptali Gonzales at the old Congress building.
“Regardless of whether it was Representative Arroyo or somebody else replacing the ousted Speaker, what happened Monday (July 23) 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,” he said.
“If GMA’s ascension to the speakership is a prelude to becoming prime minister, they better think twice because the Senate, both majority and minority, have agreed to close ranks to defend and assert our role under the 1987 Constitution in revising or amending the same. That, I can say with certainty and conviction,”Lacson added.
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito predicted that senators will close ranks the minute they sense that will perpetuate herself into power as prime minister under a federal form of government that the Duterte administration has been pushing for.
“That, you can be assured that many of the senators will resist this kind of move if this move is part of the plan to perpetuate herself to become the prime minister.
Many of the people will oppose this, especially in the Senate,” Ejercito told reporters at the sidelines of the majority caucus at the office of Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
After what was billed as an Arroyo coup d’etat last Monday afternoon, the House mace that represents the constitutional power of the Senate was taken away by sympathizers of Alvarez.
This left Arroyo at the dais without the mace, constitutionally powerless.
Lawyer Jaime Policarpio, then the chief of staff of Senate Majority Leader Ernesto M. Maceda, recalls the removal of the Senate mace at the session hall of the old Congress building in1991 by sympathizers of Salonga who was ousted by Gonzales.
After Salonga has repaired to his office, the men of the Senate Sergeant at Arms took the mace but Policarpio ran after them at the corridor and tried to wrestle for the possession of the mace but was instead dealt with karate kicks.
Interviewed by Manila Bulletin, Policarpio said he got a replica of the Senate from its memorabilia as replacement of the mace.
With the go-signal of Maceda, Policarpio placed the makeshift mace on the wooden holder at the dais to formally open the regular session with Gonzales as presiding officer.
Policarpio blamed the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) for letting down the Muslim population in the country when the Chief Executive failed to sign the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), now renamed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
While the Senate ratified the conference committee report on the BOL in Monday morning’s opening of the third regular session of the 17th Congress, the Lower House failed to act on it because of a leadership crisis.
Malacanang’s script was for the President to sign the BOL into law during his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Policarpio said the PPLO should have informed the President that there was an intense Alvarez-Arroyo power struggle but it decided to sit beside Alvarez at the Speaker’s office.
The PLLO should have made steps to delay the arrival of the President, he said.
The power play at the Lower House deprived the President of what should have been a “glorious hour” by announcing his administration’s ability to craft the BOL that is seen to create an atmosphere of peace and economic development in Mindanao,” he added.