'Why is he inside?' Tempers flare after Alvarez ouster

MANILA, Philippines – Before the fight for a seat on the Batasang Pambansa session hall rostrum, there was a fight for a seat beside President Rodrigo Duterte in his holding room.

One person from the camp of former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo supposedly vehemently reacted to how ousted Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was allowed in Duterte's holding room before the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 23.

"Why is he inside? He is no longer Speaker," someone from Arroyo's camp supposedly said, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

Roque, speaking in a press conference on Tuesday, July 24, said he was present in the room where Arroyo waited for an audience with Duterte.

He described the mood as fraught with tension.

"Tempers were really flaring all over the place. But they all had to behave because the President was around, of course," said Roque.

Duterte and Alvarez were in a smaller room, while Arroyo and her supporters were in an adjoining larger room.

Roque confirmed that the President spoke with Alvarez and Arroyo separately. He, however, no longer heard what was discussed as he was asked by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to leave.

Medialdea's role

He could not confirm reports that Duterte was "annoyed" by the ouster. But Roque said Medialdea impressed upon both the Alvarez and Arroyo camps that "internal affairs of the House should not come in the way" of Duterte delivering his SONA.

"To an extent, Executive Secretary Medialdea somehow mediated between the contending parties because of course the concern was it is the constitutional duty of the President to deliver the SONA on the 4th Monday of July and the message was sent to everyone that the President intended to discharge this function," said Roque.

Arroyo's allies managed to secure enough votes to elect her as House Speaker hours before the SONA, despite attempts by Alvarez and his allies to railroad the power grab. (READ: Gloria Arroyo's firsts as House Speaker)

Moments after Arroyo took her oath, it was Alvarez who welcomed Duterte upon his arrival, alongside Senate President Vicente Sotto III. Alvarez also took the seat for the House Speaker at the session hall as Duterte delivered his SONA.

But the day after, Malacañang recognized Arroyo as the new House Speaker. (READ: 'Prime Minister Arroyo' if Cha-Cha succeeds, opposition warns– Rappler.com 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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