What the Sona incident tells us | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

What the Sona incident tells us

When Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos climbed up to the lower tier of the Batasan rostrum, posing for a  “photo op” while then-Speaker-in-waiting Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was conferring with House of Representatives leaders and members, many House members started calling for someone to  “escort” the governor down from the area.

“What is she doing there? She isn’t even a congresswoman!” someone commented indignantly. Indeed, the shot of the literally ascendant GMA and the Marcos daughter flashing a “V” sign nearby turned out to be one of the more memorable, even iconic, photos from that tumultuous day.


The optics were bad, or highly effective, depending on one’s partisan point of view. To many politicos, even ordinary citizens, the photo demonstrated a renewed alliance between the two daughters of former presidents. It also raised the possibility of a Marcos hand in the ouster of former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Maybe this was what Imee was trying to convey.

But a member of the House insists that the Marcoses played no role in the House change of leadership. True, former first lady Imelda Marcos is a sitting member, but she is mostly “out of it” most days. “They cannot claim credit for this coup,” says the representative.


Neither does Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, the President’s eldest and, it appears, his political heir. True, Sara may have called some Congress members, mostly those from Davao and nearby areas. But the moves to replace Alvarez had been brewing for months and weeks before, mostly because House members were miffed at being treated cavalierly by the Speaker.

Alvarez also had a penchant for running his mouth off. For example, he pushed hard on federalism, threatening to cut the budgets of representatives who did not support it, and hinting at a “No-el” scenario next year.

Of course, the President was aware of the leadership change, but he was caught off-guard by the timing of the House coup and was annoyed that the intramurals were putting his State of the Nation Address in the shade.

It was supposedly the President’s request to let Alvarez preside over the session while he delivered his Sona. This not only put the controversy aside, but perhaps it was also the President’s way of acknowledging the service rendered by Alvarez, who faithfully pursued  Mr. Duterte’s agenda even if he ended up  irking his colleagues in the process.

I’m more interested in what the incident says about Mr. Duterte’s continuing hold on the House. Arroyo is already a proven disciplinarian, and she could certainly wield the whip with a combination of discipline and diplomacy. But, unlike Alvarez who owed his political stature to his patron, Arroyo has her own army of adherents and, as she is already proving these days, her own agenda, which she is pursuing with determination.

Note how easily she can bend state offices to do her will. The sudden resurrection of murder charges against four leftist party-list members, the arrest warrants issued against them, even the raising of a P1-million reward for information on their whereabouts, caught the public off-guard. The series of unfortunate events speaks loudly of the way power is being and will be even more firmly wielded during these days of GMA’s ascendancy.

People say that because of her “special” stature in the Duterte administration, Mocha Uson will likely be staying on as assistant secretary in the government’s  information office.


This, despite the icky video showing Uson, together with her associate, demonstrating a “dance” meant to popularize the drive for federalism. Well, if this was supposed to promote the federal system among Filipinos, it seems to have produced the opposite effect.

Already, disparate personalities from Sen. Koko Pimentel to Sen. Sonny Trillanes, opposition figures and even concerned mothers have reacted to this rather bizarre and raunchy take on an issue of great import to our future.

It seemed to be a way of belittling the federalism issue even as it strove to reduce the drive to its simplest, stupidest essence. I must agree with observers who now believe the assistant secretary is an opposition member in disguise.

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TAGS: At Large, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, House leadership, imee marcos, Pantaleon Alvarez, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte, Sara Duterte-Carpio, Sona, Sona 2018
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