Liberal Party stalwart and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Friday took the cudgels for Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was accused of ‘‘vindictiveness” on the issue on the appointment of caretaker of the lone legislative district of Batanes.
“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,” Belmonte, the former Speaker, said.
Belmonte said he was appointed caretaker of Batanes by former Speaker and Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez weeks after the death of the late Congresswoman Henedina Abad on Oct. 8, 2017.
“As a former Speaker myself, I know that the choice of caretaker is solely the prerogative of the Speaker, who must ensure that the needs of the legislative district continue to be addressed and its constituents taken care of,” Belmonte said in a statement.
“In my time as Speaker, the only hint of tradition or custom on the appointment of caretaker was that the Deputy Speaker covering the area would be designated as caretaker if the Speaker himself or herself is unable to take on the role,” he added.
Since Arroyo has decided not to take on the Speaker’s role of caretaker, Belmonte said he believes it is appropriate for Deputy Speaker and Pangasinan Rep. Rosemarie Arenas, who represents Northern Luzon to take on the role.
But Belmonte’s partymates in the Senate did not approve the move of House Speaker Arroyo to appoint Arenas as Batanes caretaker, saying it shows “petty vindictiveness and partisanship.”
LP president Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Arenas was designated by Arroyo during the waning minutes of the last day of session Wednesday, Oct. 10.
“It is sad that right around the first death anniversary of the late Rep. Dina Razon-Abad on Oct. 8, Arroyo chooses to disrespect her memory by imposing upon the people of Batanes a new caretaker without the benefit of any consultation with the Batanes constituents.
The Batanes people, Pangilinan said, were the ones who gave Abad an overwhelming mandate to represent them in the House of Representatives for the term 2016-2019.
Pangilinan said the tradition in the House has been to respect the nomination of the political party that the deceased member represented in the House.
“This has not been followed,” said the opposition leader. “Worse, Arroyo listened to a politician that twice had been defeated by Abad in the 2010 and 2013 Congressional elections and as a result of which opted not to run in 2016 and instead returned to his hometown in Iloilo,” he added.
Pangilinan also said that it seems Arroyo has not forgotten the active participation of Abad and her husband, former DBM secretary Butch Abad, in the Party’s campaign to impeach her for cheating in the 2004 presidential elections and hold her accountable for numerous cases of graft and corruption during her almost 10 years in office.
These eventually led to her arrest and incarceration during the new administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
The senator pointed out that Arroyo got back at the Abads by denying the province its congressional allocations in 2005 and 2006.
Not wanting the province to suffer further, Abad decided not to pursue her second term in the 2007 Congressional elections.
Arroyo promptly fielded her own candidate. As Arroyo was on her way out as president, Abad ran once again and reclaimed her congressional seat in the 2010 elections beating Arroyo’s protégé.