THE mayor of Davao City has choice words for the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Mayor Sara Duterte is enraged because Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez supposedly told other mayors in Mindanao that she belonged to the opposition.
Duterte also alleges that Alvarez told a crowd he was more powerful than the President, because he can impeach the latter.
Indeed Mr. Alvarez is a key ally of the mayor’s father, President Rodrigo Duterte. The President has benefited from the influence that the speaker wields among his colleagues at the lower house. Mr. Alvarez has steered other House members to vote the way they are “supposed” to—which means toeing the Palace line in most issues.
We would dismiss the bickering as party politics, as various personalities gear up for the midterm elections next year. The President himself has also wisely chosen to distance himself from the tiff between his daughter and his friend.
We cannot help but notice, however, that the Speaker of the House has so grossly inflated the importance of the position he holds, and cannot now tell the difference between the office that he occupies and the person that he is.
• Last year, during deliberations on the proposal to reinstate the death penalty, Alvarez removed lawmakers who opposed the measure from key positions and committees.
• When several citizens questioned the imposition of martial law in Marawi City before the Supreme Court, he threatened to tear the paper on which an adverse decision was printed.
• He said the House of Representatives did not need the Senate to amend the Constitution through a constituent assembly.
• He also threatened House members with zero budget if they did not support charter change in the mode he preferred.
• When the President appointed members of the consultative commission for amendments to the constitution, he dismissed their importance and said that the decision to accept their recommendations would ultimately rest with the lawmakers.
Alvarez is also best remembered for the words “Bring it on!”—a challenge he issued to those who threatened to file an ethics complaint against him for bringing his paramour to a government trip.
And if indeed what he uttered about the President is true, then Mr. Duterte does have a bigger problem than seeing a feud between his daughter and a key ally, or even than courting impeachment. The greater danger is in having the leader of the Lower House sink a hallowed institution to even lower depths. Mr. Alvarez is too drunk with power to consider being of genuine service to the people he is supposed to represent.