MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former House speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr said it’s “unfair” for the Liberal Party (LP), of which he is a former vice chairman, to accuse Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of vindictiveness over the Abads.
Belmonte, Quezon City 4th District congressman, issued the statement on Friday, October 12, the same day LP slammed Arroyo for the designation of Pangasinan 3rd District Representative and Deputy Speaker Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas as Batanes caretaker following the death one year ago of its former representative, Henedina Abad, an LP stalwart.
“It is unfair to accuse Speaker GMA of vindictiveness and partisanship. She has a free hand in the choice of caretaker, duly considering the needs of the constituents of the lone legislative district of Batanes and my inability to continue performing my duty as such,” said Belmonte, who was Batanes caretaker before Arenas.
He said that when he was speaker, the “only hint of tradition or custom” in the appointment of caretaker was the designation of the deputy speaker covering the region concerned.
“Since Speaker Macapagal Arroyo has decided not to take on the Speaker’s role of caretaker, I believe it is appropriate for Deputy Speaker Rose Marie Arenas, who represents Northern Luzon, to take on the role,” said Belmonte.
Ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier 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.
LP president and Senator Francis Pangilinan denounced Arroyo for replacing Belmonte with Arenas as Batanes caretaker, saying Arroyo did not follow House tradition by failing to consult the party of the deceased.
Pangilinan said Arroyo was being vindictive because of the LP’s campaign to impeach her in 2004, when Arroyo was accused of cheating in the 2004 presidential elections.
The LP became ruling party after Arroyo, with the election in 2010 of Benigno Aquino III as president. The late congresswoman Abad’s husband, Florencio Abad, was Aquino’s campaign manager and later served as his budget secretary.
Belmonte also used to be a longtime member and vice chairman of the once-ruling LP.
A source told told Rappler that the elder Belmonte has already resigned from LP because he is retiring from politics, but he won’t be joining another party.
This was confirmed by Belmonte himself.
“Yes, I did [retire] without joining any other party. Preparatory to graduating from politics at the end of this term at age 82,” said Belmonte. – Rappler.com