Pichay Cites Inter-Parliamentary Courtesy on ‘Caretaker’ Issue in House

A leader of the House of Representatives on Sunday defended Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s decision to designate Pangasinan Rep. Rosemary “Baby” Arenas as legislative caretaker of the lone district of Batanes.

Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay reminded Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan to respect inter-parliamentary courtesy, a tradition of both chambers of Congress where both houses do not intrude into each other’s affairs.

Pichay made the statement in response to Pangilinan accusing Arroyo of “petty vindictiveness and partisanship” in replacing former Speaker and Liberal Party (LP) stalwart Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. as Batanes’ caretaker.

“I cannot understand why Kiko Pangilinan, who is a senator, is meddling in the affairs of the House of Representatives. I would like to remind Sen. Kiko of the parliamentary courtesy, which we have religiously observed and given utmost importance,” Pichay said. “If I were Pangilinan I would be very careful about accusing others of vindictiveness.”

Pichay added that Arroyo has been “fairly treating” House members.

Pichay said the appointment of the caretaker is lodged upon the Speaker, contrary to Pangilinan’s claim that the House tradition had been to respect the nomination of the political party that the deceased member represented.

“I remember when [former Dinagat Islands Rep.] Ruben Ecleo was dropped from the roll by the House of Representatives, his political nemesis Akbayan party-list Kaka Bag-ao [who is a member of the Liberal Party] was appointed caretaker of his district in Dinagat Islands. When [former Negros Occidental] Cong. Iggy Arroyo died in 2012, the caretaker of his district was then Speaker Sonny Belmonte. There is therefore no tradition to speak of. There is likewise no rule on the appointment,” Pichay said.

Belmonte earlier defended Arroyo’s decision, saying “it is unfair to accuse Speaker GMA of vindictiveness and partisanship.”

“She (Arroyo) has a free hand in the choice of caretaker, duly considering the needs of the constituents of the lone legislative district of Batanes and my inability to continue performing my duty as such,” Belmonte said.

During his time as Speaker, Belmonte said “the only hint of tradition or custom” on the appointment of caretaker was that the Deputy Speaker covering the area would be designated as caretaker if the Speaker himself or herself is unable to take on the role.

“Since Speaker Macapagal-Arroyo has decided not to take on the Speaker’s role of caretaker, I believe it is appropriate for Deputy Speaker Rosemarie Arenas, who represents Northern Luzon to take on the role,” Belmonte said. (PNA)

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