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For status quo in House positions

We can understand Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s desire to remove party allies led by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from their key positions in the House of Representatives for voting against the death penalty bill.

He had warned well in advance of the voting that all those who refused to follow the party line on the bill would lose their House positions. It was a move designed to help ensure approval of the bill, one of two top advocacies of the Duterte administration along with the federal system of government.

But now that the bill has passed – by an overwhelming majority of 215 for, with 54 against and one abstention — Speaker Alvarez has been asked by House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas to temporarily set aside plans to remove those who voted no, led by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is now a deputy speaker of the House.

Speaker Alvarez may well insist that his earlier decision be followed, possibly thinking that his word is at stake here. But the bill has passed and his pre-vote warning surely helped. Now the House faces other issues, there are many other fights ahead, and the speaker’s PDP-Laban needs the support of all its allies in the super-majority who are members of other parties.

Congressman Farinas’ proposal, therefore, merits serious consideration. The federalization bill is on the agenda of the House, as is the tax reform bill. The support of Congresswoman Arroyo and her Lakas-CMD is important in these coming votes, as is the support of the many committee chairmen that Speaker Alvarez wants to unseat, among them Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos Recto of the House Committee on Civil Service and Professional Regulation, Quezon City Rep. Jose Belmonte of the Committee on Land Use, and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate of the Committee on Natural Resources.

For many of these solons, theirs was a conscience vote on the death penalty bill. For some, it was a desire to remain part of the world community of nations that agreed in 2010 in an international treaty for a moratorium on executions with a view to ultimately abolishing the death penalty altogether.

Those who voted against the death penalty bill despite Speaker Alvarez’s warning did so out of strong conviction.

They were evidently ready to give up their choice positions in the House. It would be unfortunate if they will now lose the positions of responsibility they now have.

Speaker Alvarez wants to be true to his word, but Congressman Farinas has taken it upon himself to appeal for the status quo in the meanwhile. It is a position he feels important to the majority which he leads as House majority leader. He sees it as a necessity in the face of the coming tests in the chamber.

If the House leadership can agree to set aside – for now, at least – the decision to oust the no-voters from their current positions, it will not only be in a position to maintain its strength for the coming battles on other bills.

It will also be according due respect to such stands as the conscience vote of Arroyo, Recto, and the others.

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