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‘Wag ka nang sumawsaw Kiko: Arroyo has prerogative to choose Batanes caretaker- Belmonte

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Former House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. on Friday defended former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after the Liberal Party accused her of vindictiveness and partisanship in selecting a new caretaker in the lone legislative of Batanes.

Belmonte, vice chair of LP, said it was “unfair” to accuse Arroyo of being vengeful against the opposition party since the choice of caretaker was “solely the prerogative of the Speaker.”

“She (Arroyo) has a free hand in the choice of caretaker, duly considering the needs of the constituents of the lone legislative district of Batanes,” said Belmonte.

Liberal Party President Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan earlier condemned the move of Arroyo to replace Belmonte as Batanes legislative caretaker with Pangasinan Rep. Rosemary Arenas.

Pangilinan said Arroyo chose to disrespect the memory of the late Batanes Rep. Dina Razon-Abad who died in October 2017 by assigning a new caretaker in her post “without the benefit of any consultation with the Batanes constituents.”

“The tradition in the House has been to respect the nomination of the political party that the deceased member represented in the House. This has not been followed,” said Pangilinan.

Pangilinan stressed that “it seems Arroyo has not forgotten the active participation of Abad and her husband, former Budget Sec. Florencio “Butch” Abad, in the party’s campaign to impeach her for cheating in the 2004 presidential elections and hold her accountable for numerous cases of graft and corruption during her almost 10 years in office.”

But Belmonte defended Arroyo, explaining that during his time in the Speakership, the only hint of tradition or custom on the appointment of caretaker was that the Deputy Speaker covering the area would be designated as caretaker if the House leader himself or herself is unable to take on the role.

“Since Speaker Macapagal-Arroyo has decided not to take on the Speaker’s role of caretaker, I believe it is appropriate for Deputy Speaker Rosemarie Arenas, who represents Northern Luzon to take on the role,” said Belmonte.