At Large

Déjà vu all over again

Someone pinch me! As the immensely quotable Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees famously said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Déjà vu certainly is hearing that former president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is set to be named as the new Speaker to replace Pantaleon Alvarez. I’ve been monitoring the TV coverage of the State of the Nation Address (Sona), but confirmation has yet to surface. Although, I must say, social media is rife with reports of the alleged transfer of power.


But, still, it’s enough to give one the heebie-jeebies!

Years after we thought GMA had finally stepped out of Malacañang—or, rather, was wheeled out complete with neck brace—not only has she regained a measure of political power as a congresswoman, but is also well on the road back to the presidential Palace. Or is it the prime minister’s office? This, many say, is one key factor behind the shift to a federal-parliamentary system.


The GMA takeover, orchestrated, it is said, by presidential daughter Sara Duterte Carpio, was only derailed by Alvarez’s move, citing “lack of time,” to call a stop to the proceedings, allegedly to give enough time for the President’s Sona.

In the process, Alvarez dashed hopes to have the Bangsamoro Basic Law ratified by the House (already preceded by the Senate) just in time for signing by the President shortly after his Sona delivery. It certainly would have been a bold, dramatic and historic move. But as political analysts on
TV talk shows observed, in this instance,
politics trumped history.

Surely Speaker Alvarez is aware that all he has done is to buy time, perhaps as short as a day, before he is unceremoniously escorted out of the Speaker’s office.

And while I won’t discount the power wielded by Mayor Inday Sara, who’s ranking high in the polls for those being eyed for the administration’s Senate ticket, it’s hard to believe that such a move against the powerful Speaker could have taken place without the tacit consent, if not encouragement, of her father.

Plus, talk of GMA’s ascendancy had surfaced as early as the first year of the Duterte administration. Members of Congress, in fact, had been telling tales of how brazenly the Pampanga congresswoman operated in the House. During committee hearings, it is said, Arroyo would saunter in, telling the members that the draft bill was considered a priority and that she expected passage of the bill within a given period.

Reports of the hand played by Inday Sara in the planned ouster of Alvarez also bring to mind how GMA’s own sons, notably Mikey whom she replaced as a representative, made no pretense of their role in the ouster of then Speaker Jose de Venecia in2007. Mikey Arroyo stood in front of the hall, telling all and sundry that he (and presumably his mother) was taking note of who voted for and against De Venecia. This was after De Venecia defended his son, who had denounced GMA officials’ role in an anomalous telecom deal with China. The NBN-ZTE deal was eventually scrapped, but note that a Chinese firm is now in the running for the third telecom network in the country.

And so, the world turns.


Some 200 members of Congress, far more than the minimum number needed to replace the House leadership, are said to have signed a petition calling for Alvarez’s ouster. To many anti-Duterte activists today who were just as avid anti-GMA protesters during her term, it’s like choosing, as a friend put it, “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

Neither would be suited for the position of Speaker, and both present threats to the independence of the legislature, seeing as how they make no bones about their eagerness to pursue their own agenda even as they rush to do the President’s bidding.

With the majority of Supreme Court justices and senators also clearly in Mr. Duterte’s camp, it’s enough for us to bemoan that, indeed, it’s déjà vu all over again, all the way back to 1972.

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TAGS: déjà vu, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo i, House of Representatives, Pantaleon Alvarez, politics, Yogi Berra
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