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The avenging speaker

Hell hath no fury like a Speaker scorned. Even your Facebook posts can and will be used against you by the too-easily-offended fourth-highest official of the land.

To the many misguided acts committed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as head of the current Congress, add one more: He does not consider it beneath him to go after a lowly government employee using his great powers, if he cannot get his way.

Reliable informants have told me that, to keep the peace, Customs Commissioner Nic Faeldon will let go of his head executive assistant, Mandy Mercado Anderson. This after Anderson, a topnotcher in the 2015 bar examinations, was accused by Alvarez and some of his Congress lackeys of being rude to the House leader by calling him an “imbecile” in a Facebook post.

Anderson revealed that the trouble started when Alvarez asked Faeldon to promote an unnamed protege of the speaker’s in the bureau. Faeldon, according to Anderson, tossed the matter to her, as his chief aide.

Anderson said that she evaluated Alvarez’s recommendation and decided that the person was not qualified for promotion; she told Faeldon as much, she said.

The matter should have ended there. After all, many lawmakers make similar endorsements to officials in the Executive branch, seeking favors for people they know, all the time; not all of them are accommodated and most congressmen let it go at that.

But Alvarez, according to Anderson, summoned her to his office, where he berated her for not acting favorably on his request. Anderson said she stood her ground because she was convinced that she did the right thing.

Then, this week, Alvarez and some of his minions in Congress, led by his chief sidekick, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte, found Anderson seated in front of them during a House ways and means committee hearing, which she attended with her boss, Faeldon. Fariñas brought up a Facebook post written by Anderson this month, in which she castigated Alvarez for being an imbecile for calling for the abolition of the Court of Appeals.

Fariñas, in high dudgeon, accused Anderson of, among other things, implying that all members of the House were imbeciles, because they elected an imbecile like Alvarez to be their speaker. Anderson acknowledged writing the post, which she said she thought was seen only by a small group of friends because she had restricted access to her account; apparently she was wrong.

Now, I understand that people working in government shouldn’t go around calling people in high office imbeciles, never mind if they really are. Anderson, perhaps because she truly thought that Alvarez would not stoop so low as to go after a “nobody” (as she described herself) for posting what she thought was a limited-access social media rant, may have been a bit indiscreet.

I agree that Anderson was within her rights to call out the speaker for his imbecilic crusade against three justices of the appellate court. But Alvarez is apparently a man who never forgets a slight, as many have already concluded after he went after the family of his former bosom buddy and fellow Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo.

Now, Anderson will have to be sacrificed by Faeldon, who must be worried about all the terrible things an angry Alvarez-led House majority can do to make his life miserable. (I’m told that while Anderson will lose her job as chief aide of the commissioner, she will be kept on as a consultant; but to Faeldon’s credit, he still will not promote the speaker’s protege, who caused the entire controversy.)

As I write this, I really don’t know how long Alvarez can keep treating the House as his own personal kingdom. I’m just glad that I don’t have a government job to lose, in case I criticize the speaker once too often and he decides that it’s time to say “Off with his head!”

* * *

When it rains, it sometimes pours indignation. Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte learned that the hard way.

As a longtime “Kyusi” resident, I watched with interest as Belmonte, who is widely believed to be waiting in the wings to become mayor in 2019 when Mayor Herbert Bautista steps down, was pilloried for not calling off classes early enough yesterday. Belmonte, as acting mayor in the absence of Bautista, who is abroad, drew flak for waiting until around noontime to suspend classes in local schools—never mind if nearly all of Metro Manila and other nearby areas had already done so after the rains brought about by Typhoon “Gorio” started to fall.

Online, Belmonte was also criticized for saying that she relied on government weather forecasters when she decided that classes should still be held. She later apologized for the inconvenience she caused the students and parents of local schools, who were forced to go to school in the rain, only to be told later that classes had been suspended.

Even as she was apologizing, Belmonte insisted that she believed she “did the right thing” by not suspending classes. I really wonder how she arrived at that conclusion, especially since the right thing under similar circumstances would have been to err on the side of caution.

Topics: Jojo Robles , The avenging speaker , House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez , Congress , Customs Commissioner Nic Faeldon , Mandy Mercado Anderson , Facebook , Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte , Typhoon “Gorio”
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