Leaving House for DOTr? 'That would be a demotion' – Alvarez

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez laughed off rumors that he would soon be asked to head the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

"Ay hindi. Kwentong kutsero 'yun (No. That's hearsay). Why should I exchange my elective position to an appointed one? Hindi, hindi. Walang logic dun (No. There's no logic there)," Alvarez told Rappler Talk on Tuesday, December 13. 

"In the first place, demotion sa akin 'yun. I mean, Speaker na ko tapos pupunta ako sa Cabinet position? 'Di naman siguro," he added. 

(In the first place, that would be a demotion for me. I mean, I'm already Speaker then I'll be given a Cabinet position? Probably not.) 

Rumors have been circulating in political circles that Alvarez will be given a Cabinet position by next year supposedly as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to revamp the Cabinet.  

Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former president and current House deputy speaker, will supposedly replace Alvarez as Speaker. (READ: Duterte didn't offer me Cabinet post, says Arroyo)

Alvarez denied receiving any offers from the President himself. 

He said he would not accept should Duterte, his party mate at the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, would ask that he replace Arthur Tugade as DOTr chief. (READ: Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte's lieutenant at the House)

'Lesson learned'

According to Alvarez, he already learned his lesson in 2001, when Arroyo appointed him as secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). 

At the time, Alvarez was about to finish his first term as Davao del Norte 1st District representative. He served as DOTC secretary from January 2001 to July 5, 2002.

"Hindi, hindi. Nadala na ko diyan. 'Yung time as first term ko as congressman, I was invited to join the Cabinet. Ito naman, ako naman si gago, pumayag naman 'no? Tapos you know, nangyari 'yung mga kung anu-ano 'di ba, so ayoko na bumalik dun," said Alvarez. 

(No. I already learned my lesson. During my first term as congressman, I was invited to join the Cabinet. I was a fool and accepted it, right? Then all these issues happened, so I don't want to return to that.)

As DOTC chief, Alvarez faced a plunder complaint after being implicated in wrongdoing for awarding the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 build-operate-transfer contract to the Philippine International Air Terminals Co Inc (Piatco) when he was still with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA).

The MIAA-NAIA Association of Service Contractors filed the case against him because Alvarez's wife Emelita owned 33% of Wintrack Builders Inc, a company that supposedly profited from an excess of P76.49 million from excavation work it did with Piatco. 

The Ombudsman, however, dismissed the case on March 19, 2001 due to "lack of evidence." – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.