When the Speaker speaks
THE leader of the House of Representatives, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, appears to take his job too literally. He speaks a lot, letting his words betray the arrogance of a man heady with the knowledge that he is the fourth most powerful person in the country.
Earlier this year, he was threatened with the prospect of losing his plum post at the Legislative Department and even with a disbarment case. This stemmed from the revelation that he did not only have a paramour—he was bringing her to official functions on government expense. His honorable colleagues say this was an open secret among them.
“Who does not have a mistress?” macho man Alvarez said. As to the case he faced, he was confident: “Bring it on!”
This is not the only time Mr. Alvarez has regaled us with his braggadocio.
Faced with the possibility that the Supreme Court, after hearing arguments on President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, might rule that Congress should convene to discuss the same, Alvarez said he would disregard any such decision. “They [the justices] do not have the right to dictate on Congress what we should do,” he said, citing separation of powers among the three branches of government.
He is a lawyer and could have argued his point objectively, but then he took one step further. “Punitin ko yan [I will tear it up]!” he said, referring to the piece of paper that would contain such a decision from the court. Even the Palace said the President would respect whatever the Supreme Court decides.
But wait, there’s more.
Mr. Alvarez said last week three justices of the Court of Appeals were ignorant of the law when they ordered him to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for refusing to release six Ilocos Norte provincial government employees who have been detained at the House since May 29. They are accused of misusing P66.45 million in tobacco funds but said they could not remember the transactions anymore.
Again, he could have shown a good example and explained, in elegant and convincing language, why he was in the right.
What he said in fact was: “Mga gago yang three justices na yan!”
He proceeded to threaten the abolition of the entire appellate court, which he said was a congressional creation in the first place. Granting that it is—what could be more spiteful than a House leader causing the nixing of a body that has been around for a certain function, just because it holds a different, even adverse, opinion.
Now he says he wants martial law in Mindanao extended until 2022, but is quick in clarifying that it is his personal view. Does he not realize the weight of the words of a Speaker of the House?
Indeed Mr. Alvarez is an interesting character. He may be imitating his boss the president, known for his colorful language, or he may just be revealing who he really is. Either way, it does not inspire much confidence—or respect.