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‘Death bill targets threat to Speaker’

SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez has imposed a policy to sanction House leaders who vote against the death penalty bill to neutralize the threat he perceives from former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a source said Wednesday.

The source said Alvarez did not aim to sideline Liberal Party congressmen, but to neutralize the group of Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. who is pushing to install Arroyo as speaker.

The source said the shakeup at the Senate “may not be the case at the House.”

Maybe the Speaker has an ax to grind—to get rid of [Arroyo] maybe,” the source added.

Signs of a falling out between Alvarez and Arroyo first appeared last December, when the former president denied rumors that she was being groomed to replace Alvarez.

“It has come to my attention that rumors have been circulating that I will soon be replacing Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez,” Arroyo said in a statement. “I categorically deny that. I don’t have any plans of taking his place.”

As of Wednesday, there were no signs of a revamp in the House, as congressmen were busy proposing amendments to House Bill 4727 or the watered-down death penalty bill.

The approved House version limits the crimes covered by the death penalty to drug-related offenses.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez
The source said Alvarez began to feel insecure about Arroyo, who holds the position of deputy speaker, when he had a falling out with Floirendo, the biggest campaign financier of President Rodrigo Duterte, and who reportedly supported Alvarez’s bid to become speaker.

The source did not say what had come between Alvarez and Floirendo, but reports said Floirendo was trying to get close to Arroyo.

Alvarez, who served as Transport secretary during the Arroyo administration, denied he held any personal grudge against his former boss.

But Alvarez is determined to sanction the administration allies who will not toe the line.

Alvarez earlier said House leaders would be stripped of their posts if they vote against the passage of the Palace-backed death penalty bill.

“We cannot do anything about it. We will find their replacements,” he said Monday.

Arroyo has maintained her position against the death penalty.

Alvarez, meanwhile, has sought a congressional probe into allegations that Floirendo’s banana exporting company was shortchanging the government in its profit-sharing scheme.

He also sought an audit of the export transactions made by banana firm Tagum Agricultural Development Inc., owned by Floirendo.

Floirendo was said to have contributed P75 million to the Duterte campaign last year, making him the biggest donor, based on a Commission on Elections report.

Alvarez has also said Congress could look into possible violations of the anti-graft law by Floirendo.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has reportedly ordered a review of the 25-year lease contract that will lapse 12 years from now between the Bureau of Correction and Tadeco after receiving complaints that the company’s annual payments—both lease and profit sharing—were reportedly only a fraction of the prevailing market rate.

Alvarez said his position against Floirendo showed the firm resolve of the Duterte administration to investigate even its allies.

Alvarez said he will also look into the veracity of the reports about the lease agreement where the government would get a guaranteed payment of P26.542 million per year for using the Davao Penal Colony’s 5,308 hectares of land, or P5,000 per hectare.

Topics: Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez , Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo , Death penalty bill , Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr.
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