Speaker to Leni, bishops: Don’t meddle with House

MANILA, Philippines -  Vice President Leni Robredo and Catholic bishops should not tell the House of Representatives what it should do with the bill reimposing the death penalty, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said yesterday.

Among the religious groups in the Philippines, he said only the Catholic Church interferes with the government.

“They should not meddle with us. Why should they tell me how to do my job? They should first run for Congress,” Alvarez said, referring to Robredo’s and retired bishop Oscar Cruz’s call for him to allow a conscience vote on the death penalty bill and not threaten House leaders with replacement if they do not support the measure.        

Robredo served as Camarines Sur representative for one term before she was elected vice president.

“She should give up the vice presidency, run again in her district and aspire for the speakership. If she is elected speaker, she can run the House the way she wants to. I will not meddle with her. In the meantime, she should not meddle with us,” Alvarez said.

He reiterated that the super majority coalition he heads would replace deputy speakers and committee chairmen who will not vote for the death penalty bill.

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“We laid down a policy and our members have to abide by it. We have to help President Duterte by approving the legislative measures he is pushing for, like the death penalty bill. If I cannot shepherd the approval of these measures, what I am Speaker for? They might as well replace me,” the Speaker stressed.                

Asked specifically if the coalition would remove former president and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as deputy speaker if she does not support the death penalty bill, Alvarez said, “Yes, because we have to enforce a policy,” adding that he has already asked Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas to thresh things out with Arroyo.

Alvarez served as acting secretary of transportation and communications during the early part of the nine-year Arroyo presidency. There are speculations in the House that the former president, who is in her last term as representative of Pampanga’s second district, is interested in Alvarez’s post.

The Speaker added that the three members of leftist Makabayan bloc who are committee chairmen and are opposed to the death penalty also stand to lose their committee posts.

He is not as sure though on the deletion of plunder from the death penalty bill, pointing out that if someone proposes to restore it during the period of amendments and the majority votes for it, then it would be covered by the measure.        

Fariñas said he and his House boss voted for keeping plunder in the proposed law during Wednesday’s closed-door caucus.