Baby Arenas is new Batanes caretaker in House

Mara Cepeda
Baby Arenas is new Batanes caretaker in House
(UPDATED) Deputy Speaker Baby Arenas is replacing Quezon City 4th District Representative Feliciano Belmonte Jr as caretaker of the lone district of Batanes

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Deputy Speaker Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas is the new caretaker of Batanes at the House of Representatives after the death of Henedina Abad

Arenas, Pangasinan 3rd District representative, is replacing Quezon City 4th District Representative Feliciano Belmonte Jr as caretaker. Her designation was formalized during the session on Wednesday night, October 10.  

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya made the motion to designate Arenas as caretaker.

“Madame Speaker, in the interest of the people of the lone district of Batanes, I move that we designate Representative Rose Marie ‘Baby’ Arenas of the 3rd district of Pangasinan as the legislative caretaker of the lone district of Batanes, vice Representative Feliciano Belmonte Jr,” Andaya said. 

The plenary accepted the motion without any objections.

Arenas is known to have had a past relationship with former president Fidel Ramos and wielded influence during his presidency. 

In the book Endless Journey: A Memoir by Rappler editor-at-large Marites Dañguilan Vitug, former national security adviser Jose Almonte said Arenas had wanted to become president after Ramos. But her daughter Rachel disputed this.

Arenas will now become caretaker of Batanes, which was once represented at the House by Abad. Abad, a Liberal Party member, died on October 9, 2017.

She was a longtime professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, and was founding dean of the Ateneo School of Government.

She was initially appointed chairman of the House committee on government reorganization, but was stripped of this role after she voted against the reimposition of the death penalty.

Abad was also the wife of Florencio Abad, who served as budget secretary under the Aquino administration and himself a former longtime congressman of the province. 

Ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez eariler told reporters that while it’s the House leadership that ultimately decides on who becomes designated caretaker of a legislative district, the deceased lawmaker’s family can also give recommendations. 

Abad’s son protests

Abad’s youngest son, Luis, opposed Arenas’ designation as caretaker of Batanes. He said the House leadership had not consulted the Liberal Party nor Batanes Governor Marilou Cayco.

“A day after the anniversary of Nanay’s death, GMA and her brand of petty politics show no respect for the dead nor for the mandate of the people of Batanes by unilaterally assigning Pangasinan Representative Baby Arenas as Caretaker Representative without even consulting the Liberal Party, of which Nanay was a member, or Governor Cayco, the highest elected official of Batanes,” said Luis.

He alleged that Speaker Arroyo supposedly wanted to designate a non-lawmaker for the post his mother left behind. But Luis did not give any names.

“Story going around is that GMA wanted to appoint someone who the people of Batanes rejected in the polls in 2010 and 2013, and did not even have the courage to run in 2016. But because he wasn’t a member of Congress, such an appointment would’ve been a break with tradition and against the rules. So now, Plan B is to assign Rep Arenas but she will take her cue from someone who does not have the mandate of the people of Batanes,” said Luis. 

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.