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Power struggle with Alvarez delays Duterte’s State of the Nation Address



(Photo from ABS-CBN News)


QUEZON CITY — The House of Representatives has formally installed former president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd district, Pampanga) as the new Speaker, replacing Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) after a “coup” which delayed by more than hour President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives.


Arroyo, 71, who is also a former Vice President and Senator, made history with her election as she becomes the first woman Speaker, the fourth highest official in the hierarchy in government after the President, Vice President and the Senate President.


Arroyo was first elected by 161 lawmakers after a rowdy proceedings when the House session was abruptly suspended and the microphone was turned off, enabling Alvarez to join the committee to welcome President Duterte together with Senate President Vicente Sotto III. Arroyo actually took her oath as Speaker immediately after her first election but Alvarez and his group refused to recognize the election.


As Alvarez and Sotto and the President were holed up at a waiting lounge preparatory to SONA, Arroyo and some lawmakers tried a few times to enter the lounge but failed. When finally she succeeded, Duterte and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdia, after some negotiations, proposed that Alvarez be allowed to occupy his seat with Sotto at the SONA and Arroyo, Alvarez and the lawmakers hold a special session after the SONA to make formal Arroyo’s election as speaker.


In the subsequent election that followed attended by 238 solons, Arroyo got a total of 184 votes, 48 against and 12 lawmakers abstained from voting, sealing her second oath taking and assumption as Speaker.


"I am extremely honored to have been supported by my colleagues at the House of Representatives to be their new Speaker," she said in her first statement as leader of the lower chamber.


Arroyo vowed to push for the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration in the House of Representatives.


"I will endeavor to carry out the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Lower House," she said.


 When the House met the next day, Arroyo presided over the session amid still some questions about her ascendancy. But the House was able to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law which a day before the House failed to accomplish due to the suspension of the session.


Malacañang readily expressed readiness to work with new Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Duterte has very good relations with the former president and now Pampanga congresswoman.


“She was one of the staunchest supporters of the President during the elections. They share the same political agenda. So we foresee absolutely no problems in working with Speaker Arroyo,” Roque said.


Roque said he did not anticipate the House leadership change but he “noticed (that) the President was visibly concerned about the pronouncements of the Speaker (Alvarez) on no election, in so far as he related, also no elections to federalism.”


“He did not express concern about the Speaker. He did express concern about the no-el which was being pushed by Speaker Alvarez,” he explained.


Roque reiterated that Duterte “was even more emphatic that he definitely will not have any hand in no-el.”


Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, who was rumoured to have helped engineer the ouster of Alvarez with whom she had a spat earlier, immediately congratulated Speaker Arroyo.


The presidential daughter also described the former President as “a strong leader.”


 “Congratulations to SPGMA (Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). A strong leader,” Duterte-Carpio stated in a text message.


Catholic prelates lauded the installation of former president Arroyo as House Speaker, replacing Alvarez.


Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes admitted that he was glad that Alvarez was replaced so that his plans will not push through.


“I am happy that Alvarez was ousted because of his extremely dangerous plans like 'no election in 2019', a clear violation of our Constitution,” Bastes said in a statement.


“I am glad that GMA is the speaker because she is a pro-life advocate and as President, she abolished the death penalty. She is also an economist,” he added.


 Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco noted that those who supported the installation of Arroyo must have thought of what she would achieve as a leader of the lower chamber.


“I’m sure our lawmakers would always consider how things can become better. They must have thought that GMA would deliver,” he added.


The Alvarez and Duterte-Carpio conflict started last February when he labeled the Davao City mayor as being part of the opposition when she formed the regional political party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago


A couple of months back in the Senate, PDP-Laban president Senator Aquilino Pimentel III relinquished the Senate presidency to Senator Vicente Sotto III, a member of the Nationalist People's Coalition.


Nueva Ecija Rep. Magnolia Antonino raised the motion to declare the speakership vacant.


The lawmakers then swiftly moved to elect a new leader with Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu nominating Arroyo to become the next Speaker. No other nominations were made.


The session was initially held without the presence of the mace, but it was restored during the nominal voting.


Ang Kabuhayan Rep. Dennis Laogan, the youngest member of the House in the 17th Congress, administered the oath of office to Arroyo.


The last time a House Speaker was ousted was in February 2008, when Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. was replaced by Davao Rep. Prospero Nograles.


Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza of Buhay party-list, a former appointee of then President Arroyo as Environment and Natural Resources secretary and one of the key leaders who helped in the election of Arroyo as speaker, said Alvarez’s call to postpone the 2019 polls delivered the final blow on the fragile “Super Majority” bloc.


“His calls for no-election [in 2019] did it. Look at what happened yesterday. All leaders of political parties from his so called Super Majority turned their backs on him. Hindi naman lahat ng congressman e mga pusakal (Not all lawmakers are addicted to power),” he said.


Alvarez took his position for granted by threatening members of the House if they didn’t toe his line, he said.


Arroyo herself got a taste of Alvarez’s “dictatorial” style when she was removed as deputy speaker for voting against the bill restoring the death penalty for drug offenses.


Alvarez also threatened to give zero budgets to lawmakers opposed to Charter change.


Alvarez even called for the abolition of term limits of elected officials during his speech for the opening of the Third Regular Session of the 17th Congress.


“Everybody saw the dictatorial tendencies [of Alvarez], and they did not like it,” Atienza said.


Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo of Marikina said the prime movers of the leadership change were Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. of Davao del Norte and Arroyo’s former budget chief, Rolando Andaya Jr. of Camarines Sur.


Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes welcomed the change in leadership at the House of Representatives, saying he was “happy” that Alvarez was ousted.


“She is a pro-life advocate and as president she abolished the death penalty. She is also an economist,” the prelate said on Monday.


“I am happy that Alvarez was ousted because of his extremely dangerous plans like no election in 2019 in view of federalism, which the majority of Filipinos reject and abhor, a clear violation of our Constitution,” he added.


Bastes however urged President Duterte to not push through with his plan to fully implement the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law or Train, “because many poor people are now suffering because of the Train, a situation which Duterte seems to ignore or not notice at all.”


Rumors of a possible change of leadership at the House of Representatives gained traction in February this year after Duterte-Carpio issued scathing remarks against Alvarez, who supposedly called her newly-formed party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), as part of the opposition as it was not sanctioned by the President.


The Presidential daughter also alleged that Alvarez had boasted before a crowd that he, as House Speaker, could easily impeach the President.


Alvarez has denied these allegations.


Asked to comment on accusations that she had a hand in the removal of Alvarez as House Speaker, Duterte-Carpio said: “No comment.”

New pastry chef touts heritage

Published in Upside

BAKING is Act 2 for seasoned IT marketing pro Bettina Santos Yap, who designed ‘Pinoy Pride’ (inset) for her graduation from hospitality and culinary classes.  (Photo by Megan Wong)


Pioneer Philippine restaurateur Honorata Fajardo, founder of the iconic Bungalow, Luau and Pulupandan in Manila, would have been proud to witness her eldest granddaughter become a professional pastry chef last month, thus honoring the traditional family enterprise.

Bettina Santos Yap would have wowed her grandmother with her final presentation to culminate Baking and Pastry studies at the City College of San Francisco Culinary Arts & Hospitality Program. She touted a triple-deck masterpiece fashioned from fondant on faux cake to celebrate her Philippine heritage. The top is encrusted in capiz “shells” reminiscent of the rich marine life sustaining the archipelago. The bottom replicates the “banig” or mat woven from palm fronds, for the land’s lush vegetation.

Perched majestically at the center layer is the piece de resistance, a Sarimanok, legendary bird of the Maranao people of Mindanao that has become emblematic of pre-colonial Philippines, its bold colors and graceful curls evoking both the strength and whimsy of the culture. Dangling from its beak is a fish, symbolizing resourcefulness and abundance.

“We were assigned to pick a motif for a ‘celebration cake’ to showcase our competency with fondant,” Santos Yap told Positively Filipino of the final test utilizing icing made of sugar, water, gelatin, butter, and glycerol. “I felt at home with the medium because as a child I loved working with clay.”

Her theme choice embodies the persona of an artist who is also a community advocate, whose Tagalog proficiency remains undiminished because of her frequent visits to the Philippines with her mother Mila “Baby” Gozum-Santos and bonding with her former classmates from St. Scholastica in Marikina City and the University of the Philippines in Diliman.


“I looked at photos of previous fondant designs and noticed that majority were floral,” she said. Most striking to her was that though many of her predecessors were Filipino, no Philippine images were depicted, informing her next move.

“I really wanted to do something Filipino,” she stressed, finding the three-layer assignment perfectly suited to represent Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. She calls her sculpture “Pinoy Pride” and offered it to the Philippine consulate as a gift for the 120th anniversary of Philippine Independence.  Consul Carlyn Monasterial expressed excitement to feature the cake at the June 9 gala reception.

This June auspiciously  opens Santos Yap’s Act 2 when she dons the toque at the renowned San Francisco Baking Institute established by French boulanger Michael Suas, ex-pastry chef of a Michelin three-starred restaurant in Tours, France, and consultant for Acme, La Brea, Grace Baking Co and Boudin in the Bay Area.

The oven fired up Santos Yap a little later than her “Lola Ata” would have preferred. In school she was more enamored with theater, contemplating broadcast news. Later she discovered the computer as the convenient tool to concretize her ideas after graduating from Golden Gate University in 1989. Ironically her new profession demands pure human effort in each production.

“Driven” is how the seasoned marketing professional described herself once.

The trait emerges wherever she commits herself.
It shows at Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church, where the longtime parish council member produced and co-emceed a series of Christmas concerts to raise funds for church repairs. It surfaces at meetings and especially nearing major free public events of ALLICE Alliance for a Community Empowerment, the 15-year-old volunteer group she co-founded to prevent intimate partner and elder abuse.

Her peregrine focus marked the 25 years she rose from freelance consultant for mostly tech companies to full-time senior marketing manager of a telecommunications firm that jetted her around the world to stage events she conceived.

That resolve arose when she decided time had come for change.

This time last year Santos Yap gave up her lucrative day job to earn a certificate of completion of studies in the science of cooking in prolonged heat.

You could say cooking is in her DNA. Her aunt Annabel Santos Wisniewski with her husband and sons own Raintree Hospitality, a network of several restaurants in Manila including M cafe at the Ayala Museum. A cousin, Geraldine Fajardo, was a manager at the Starbucks San Francisco corporate office.

As a child, Santos Yap reveled in visits at her grandmother’s dining palaces, cocooning herself in the air-conditioned comfort of the cake shop, marveling as the sheets of sponge and chiffon transformed into eye-popping edible art, watching customers line up to collect their orders.

As a techie, she found creative refuge in the kitchen making confections for co-workers and friends. A colleague noticed her more-than-passing enthusiasm to concoct goodies and proposed that she produce the favors for one of their company events.

She accepted the challenge, whipping up sweets of nuts and fudge that earned compliments, further fueling her desire to elevate her baking skills.

Easily she found one-day classes on the internet that led to the 9-month CCSF program under Chef Betsy Riehle.

Her husband Voltaire Yap, a marketing director at Oracle, their son Justin, an analyst at Amazon, and daughter Monica, a consumer service rep at Academy of Art University, encouraged her to follow her dream.

“I wanted formal education and got to learn valuable techniques,” she explained her motivation to enroll in August. The course was free but not without intangible cost.

“I woke up at 4:30 every morning five days a week to be in class by 6 am,” said the South San Francisco resident. She had homework and toiled in math while learning costing.

Not once did she miss a meeting of her volunteer commitments despite having to make dinner and turn in early to rise before dawn the following school day. In fact she relishes sharing her products with fellow volunteers.

She surprises friends with a baguette one day, lemon mousse or strawberry banana loaf at another. She has impressed her aunt Annabel with her version of chat longue, or lengua de gato, as the buttery fingers are known to Europhiles in Manila.

Fans may have to wait in line for their sweet treats when she unveils her bakery named Baby & Boy after her parents. Should be soon, given her proven determination. And when that happens, she will surely topbill pastries popular in the Philippines, keeping her grandmother’s spirit alive.


Pacquiao wants rematch with Mayweather

Published in Sports

(Photo from Instagram | @mannypacquiao)


GENERAL SANTOS CITY– If the opportunity comes, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao said he will not think twice to have a rematch with undefeated American prizefighter Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Pacquiao reiterated his desire  to have another fight with the now retired Mayweather, who defeated him via unanimous decision in their lone faceoff in 2015.

He initially called out Mayweather to “do a second one” with him after arriving here from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia late Monday afternoon.

The “fighting senator” wrested the World Boxing Association “regular” welterweight title from Argentinian Lucas Matthysse in an epic seventh round knockout last Sunday.

“That depends. Let’s see if he decides to return to boxing. If that happens, it means he’s coming back for me,” he told reporters at his mansion in Barangay Lagao here.

Pacquiao said he wants to do “two to three more fights” before finally hanging up his gloves and just focus on his political career.

Now 39 years-old, he acknowledged that age will finally slow him down but added that this was not the case so far, stressing his “passion for boxing” has not wavered.

Presidential son Sebastian “Baste” Duterte, who visited Pacquiao , said the latter has “a lot left” in the tank to continue his boxing career.

He congratulated the senator for knocking out Matthysse “as what we’ve been always rooting.”

“Si Mayweather dapat tumbahin niya. Kailangan niyang tumbahin yun (He should knock out Mayweather. He needs to knock him down),” the younger Duterte said.

Senator Nancy Binay, who also visited Pacquiao, said the latter’s latest feat is a huge victory for the Filipino people.

“The Senate is honored with his accomplishment,” she said.

South Cotabato second district representative and deputy House Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez said Pacquiao made the country “really proud” with his sensational win.

“It was huge for everyone to witness another knockout performance from him,” he added.

MAKATI CITY – Citing sustained rise of inflation and credit growth, Fitch Solutions forecasts an additional 25 basis points increase in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) key rates before yearend.


In a research note, the Fitch Group unit contends that while the implementation of tax reforms since January 2018 is a major contributor to price pressures, it considers robust consumer demand due to strong credit growth as the main driver of inflation, Joanne Villanueva of PNA reported.


“This is evident from the fact that core inflation has also been on the uptrend,” it said.


In a related development, an economist of ING Bank Manila believes the additional hike in Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) key rates effective August 10, would help buoy the peso and address the impact of its weakness on domestic inflation.


Last week, the BSP’s policy-making Monetary Board (MB) hiked the central bank’s key rates by 50 basis points on expectations of elevated inflation rate levels until next year. The rate increase this week is on top of the 25 basis points hike each last May and June.


“The move also support(s) PHP which has contributed to rising inflation. We support BSP’s view that the economy can absorb monetary tightening,” Joey Cuyegkeng said.


“The aggressive BSP policy tightening not only addresses BSP’s mandate to moderate inflation but also moderate the imbalance generated by private sector growth and enhanced government spending,” Cuyegkeng said.


“We believe that this is not the end of BSP’s tightening as the immediate objective to anchor inflation expectations would need further action since inflation has yet to peak and would remain elevated for the rest of the year and early 2019,” he added. 


The peso is currently trading at the 53-level to the greenback and some economists consider this to be another factor for the sustained rise of the rate of price increases.


As of last July, inflation averaged at 4.5 percent, higher than the government’s 2 percent to 4 percent target until 2020.


Last July alone, inflation surged to a multiyear high of 5.7 percent from month-ago’s 5.2 percent due to faster inflation of the food and non-alcoholic beverages index.


Authorities have traced the sustained rise of this particular index to tighter supply of fish and rice, among others.


Cuyegkeng also noted that with domestic demand remaining robust, imports have shadowed exports, resulting in trade imbalance and affecting the overall growth of the domestic economy.


In the first seven months of the year, inflation surpassed the government’s two to four percent target until 2020 after it averaged at 4.5 percent.


Last July alone, headline inflation rose to multiyear high of 5.7 percent from month-ago’s 5.2 percent due to big jump of inflation of the food and non-alcoholic beverages index.


During the same month, core inflation, which excludes some volatile food and oil items, registered at 4.5 percent from the previous month’s 4.3 percent, resulting to an average of 3.5 percent.


The report said domestic inflation risks are aggravated by higher inflation expectations and rising global risk aversion, all of which also contribute to the weakness of the Philippine peso.


In a bid to meet its mandate of ensuring price stability and to support economic growth the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) policy-making Monetary Board (MB) on Thursday hiked anew the central bank’s key rate by 50 basis points.


The rate uptick is on top of the total of 50 basis points increase, at 25 basis points each, last May and June.


To date, rate of the BSP’s overnight reverse repurchase (RRP) facility is four percent, the repurchase facility rate is 4.5 percent and the deposit rate is 3.5 percent.


Philippine monetary authorities’ decision to increase key rates was made to address continued rise of inflation and address any second round effects.


“While we recognize that the BSP can intervene in the spot market to help stabilize the currency, negative real interest rates and a tightening US Fed suggest to us that further interest rate hikes will likely be needed over the coming quarters to safeguard macroeconomic stability, and this is likely to come at the expense of growth,” the research said.


In the second quarter of the year, the domestic economy grew by six percent, slower than the 6.6 percent in the previous quarter.


With headwinds coming from rising inflation, tighter monetary policy and slower growth, Fitch Solutions cut its 2018 growth forecast for the Philippines to 6.3 percent from 6.5 percent earlier.


The research noted that the economy’s second quarter performance this year was driven by stronger government consumption, fixed capital formation and exports.


However, output of these factors were countered by the deceleration of private consumption and continued rise of imports, with the latter due to rising domestic demand.


The study said the government’s infrastructure program has resulted to increase in stock of durable equipment and faster growth of construction but it “question(s) the “sustainability of the government’s aggressive move, in the absence of improvements to the business environment and larger involvement of the private sector.” 

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