AN opposition congressman has appealed to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House members to keep the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc. within the Batasang Pambansa premises in Quezon City, because of the assistance it provides lawmakers.
Rep. Teodoro Baguilat of Ifugao made the pitch in connection with Alvarez’s announcement in February that he wanted to remove the office of the charitable foundation run by congressmen’s spouses from Batasang Pambansa, to accommodate more offices for lawmakers.
Last week, Alvarez, who represents Davao del Norte, admitted he was seeing another woman and was no longer in speaking terms with his wife, Emelita Apostol-Alvarez, the foundation president. The post is traditionally held by the House speaker’s spouse.
“I believe it’s better to have the real spouses of the legislators here in Congress. I hope my colleagues will not agree to further distance them from the supportive work of their spouses,” Baguilat said in a statement.
“The work of the [foundation]complements all legislators and helps out all districts. These partners in life are also legitimate partners in extending the goodwill and service of district representatives to their constituents,” he added.
The foundation hosts job fairs, hands out scholarships, promotes local products through trade fairs and donates relief goods, among others.
“Taking them away from the Batasan Complex will only burden their work for the people,” Baguilat said.
Baguilat took the cudgels for Mrs. Alvarez, citing an account from one of the chiefs of staff of lawmakers, which described the speaker’s wife as kind, good natured and committed to foundation work.
“I’m sure kicking out the [foundation]will infuriate its members who are faithful to and supportive of their legislator-spouses. While the speaker has administrative control over the facilities of Congress, I hope he will consult all relevant stakeholders, namely the spouses, and not impose changes like a dictator husband,” Baguilat said.
“It’s unfortunate that the speaker thinks that the [foundation]is a liability to Congress, when it is in fact doing part of its work. Spouses are supposed to support each other’s work, so I can’t imagine why the speaker wants to make coordination between the [foundation]and the congressmen difficult,” he added.
Alvarez’s affair with a certain Jennifer Maliwanag Vicencio was made public by Cathy Binag, partner of Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr. who is being sued by Alvarez over the joint venture between the Floirendo family-owned banana firm Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. (Tadeco) and the Bureau of Corrections in 2003.
The deal supposedly allowed Tadeco to lease 5,308 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony at a price of just P5,000 annually.
Binag claimed that the relationship between long-time friends Alvarez and Floirendo soured after her fight with Vicencio during the Masskara Festival in Bacolod in October 2016.
Vicencio was said to have shooed away Floirendo from occupying a seat reserved for Alvarez, which infuriated Binag.
‘Don’t disbar Alvarez’
The House speaker, who could face disbarment as a lawyer because of the affair, found an ally in Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque on Sunday.
Roque raised the possibility of Supreme Court justices being impeached by the House if the magistrates disbar the speaker.
“The Supreme Court (SC) has repeatedly disbarred lawyers in the past due to immoral conduct. However, it is my opinion that Speaker Alvarez should not be disbarred as this may lead the SC to a confrontation with a co-equal branch of government, which in turn may result in the possible impeachment of some of the justices,” he said in a statement.
“Immoral or not, the Office of the Speaker still commands numbers for impeachment,” Roque said.