Even film director Joyce Bernal couldn’t have thought of a more dramatic and twisted political plot than the standoff between Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Davao del Norte Rep. Bebot Alvarez.
Too bad, Bernal’s political opus, the 2018 State of the Nation Address, was such a bore even President Rodrigo Duterte was either too tired or disinterested to even make a single curse or insult in less than an hour of speech.
For 75 minutes, the public waited with bated breath on who should sit beside the President at the rostrum after Arroyo was hurriedly sworn in by Ang Kabuhayan Rep. Dennis Laogan just minutes before Duterte’s chopper landed at Batasan.
While 186 members signed the manifesto supporting Arroyo as the next Speaker but it was clear that Alvarez was still in control of Batasan’s resources – the mace, the House’s symbol o authority, was missing and the audio staff at Batasan refused to turn on the sound system when Arroyo and her allies attempted to address their peers on the floor.
It was reported that the mace was not seen after Alvarez opened session at 9 a.m. and that he took the gavel with him when he stepped down when session was adjourned before Arroyo’s allies could make their move.
A few minutes before Duterte’s scheduled SONA at 4 p.m., the newly-sworn in Arroyo was seen walking nervously on the rostrum obviously waiting for Duterte to arrive and address her as the new Speaker.
But Duterte refused to leave the holding room where he was met by Alvarez and Senate President Tito Sotto amid questions on the legality of the change of leadership.
Arroyo was eventually prevailed on by her allies to come down and go to the lounge behind the stage where they would sort out the mess.
When Duterte finally walked into the session hall at 5 p.m. and he addressed Alvarez as Speaker of the House, it was clear that the Alvarez had outwitted Arroyo even for just one day. It was inevitable that Alvarez would have to let go as the numbers have turned against him.