"The first and foremost job I have as Speaker is to carry out the legislative agenda of President Duterte." — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
There have been few significant female figures in the Philippines’ political history, but all of them have left a lasting mark. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is one such figure.
The last few years have brought one surprise after the other in the world of politics — and one of the more recent saw Arroyo being elected as Speaker last July.
A total of 184 House members formed the new majority and voted in favor of the Pampanga 2nd District representative. After 20 male Speakers, it took a former President to put a woman on top of the legislature.
In the history of the House of Representatives, men have dominated the field. But with Arroyo’s accumulated experience and political clout, she was able to secure the position.
The road to the Speakership, so to speak, began when Arroyo was elected to represent the second district of her home province Pampanga – made up of her hometown of Lubao as well as Floridablanca, Guagua, Porac, Sta. Rita and Sasmuan – in 2010 for the 15th Congress. She succeeded her son, Juan Miguel “Mikee” Arroyo, as representative.
Mrs. Arroyo was re-elected to a second term in 2013 for the 16th Congress and a third consecutive term in 2016.
In the present 17th Congress, before becoming Speaker, she was a member for the majority in the House Committees on Government Enterprises and Privatization, Housing and Urban Development, Local Government, National Defense and Security, Population and Family Relations, Revision of Laws, Veterans Affairs and Welfare, and Ways and Means.
As the first former Philippine head of state to become Speaker, Arroyo can be said to have a greater understanding of President Rodrigo Duterte’s legislative agenda, and she has stressed as much in saying she wants to give importance to the good relationship between the Office of the President and the House.
It is unusual—in fact, the first time in over a decade—that a new Speaker takes the reins of the House in the middle of a presidential and a congressional term. Despite being on her last term, Arroyo vowed to put the House on a faster lawmaking pace, mirroring her renowned workaholic ethic.
This is proven by the House’s working record in the first month under the new Speaker, as in just 25 session days since Arroyo took over, the chamber has tackled 778 measures, or an average of 31 a day.
In only 25 session days, Arroyo has guided the House to accomplish 21 percent of the total 3,707 measures or output of the 17th Congress that opened on July 25, 2016.
Personally, the Speaker has been no slouch, having principally authored 255 measures and co-authored 60 others. These proposals range from an act to strengthen occupational safety and health standards to asking the Office of the President to pursue better relations with the Russian Federation to ensure the safety of overseas Filipino workers there.
Since she took over the House leadership, Arroyo attended committee hearings and plenary sessions to ensure that vital socio-economic measures were deliberated upon and approved on schedule.
During the plenary budget deliberations on Oct. 1, the Speaker, along with members of the House, stayed overnight until the session was adjourned at 6 am the next day.
Then at 9 am of that day, Speaker Arroyo attended the hearing of the Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Estrellita Suansing of Nueva Ecija which tackled the fiscal regime for the Mining Industry bill.
Since she took over the speakership in July 2018 until December 5, 2018 or a total of 38 session days, the House has processed 1,299 measures of which 78 were enacted into law.
Four days after the opening of the Third Regular Session, the much-awaited Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was signed into law by President Duterte as Republic Act 11054. That law was based on House Bill 6475.
Also, among those signed by the President was Republic Act 11055, or the Philippine Identification System Act based on HB 6221, which establishes a single national identification system to promote the seamless delivery of government services and increase transparency while reducing corruption in the delivery of social services. Speaker Arroyo also led the House to the passage of the Coconut Levy Fund and the Rice Tariffication Act which had already been ratified by both Houses.
Meanwhile, 41 more measures are awaiting the President’s signature to become laws.
Apart from these landmark measures, the House ratified 22 bicameral reports. It has approved on third reading 196 bills. Also, during Arroyo’s term, the House approved House Joint Resolution 26, which extends until Dec. 31, 2019 the period of availability of funds intended for victims of human rights violations during the imposition of martial law by then President Ferdinand Marcos.
The House has also approved on second reading 39 and adopted 31resolutions.
Her term as Speaker may last all of 10 months, but these past few months have proven that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – Pampanga representative, former Senator, former Vice President, former President – is one of the towering figures of Philippine politics, now and in history.