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Speaker’s extramarital affair is ‘open secret’

Jennifer Vicencio

Jennifer Vicencio

The extramarital affair of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has been an open secret in the House of Representatives, which castigated detained Sen. Leila de Lima for her affair with a former driver, according to a party-list lawmaker.

“[E]veryone knew in Congress” about the Speaker’s girlfriend even as his wife chaired the nonprofit foundation of congressional spouses soon after he was sworn in to head the House of Representatives in July last year, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque said.

Roque, a House deputy minority leader, and Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers continued to defend Alvarez on Monday, saying the Speaker still had the trust and confidence of the 300-strong House.

“You have to give it to the Speaker for being candid and being frank [about] whatever involvement he really has. It wasn’t easy to do that,” Barbers said at a press conference, with Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas seated beside him.

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Divorce bill

Brosas said, “We don’t agree with his flaunting his extramarital affairs.” She added that this was an opportune time to push for the divorce bill.

She also said Gabriela was still studying the possibility of filing an ethics complaint against Alvarez.

For Barbers, removing Alvarez as Speaker because of his affair with a woman other than his wife was a “shallow reason to question the capability of the Speaker to lead Congress.”

He added that Alvarez continued to have the “trust and confidence the 300-strong [House],” and even the trust and confidence of President Duterte.

In a separate interview, Roque said Alvarez never concealed his estrangement from his wife of 30 years, Emelita, and his relationship with Jennifer Maliwanag Vicencio.

That was the main difference, Roque said, with the case of De Lima, whom congressmen castigated for her affair with her former driver, Ronnie Dayan.

“I think that difference is there is no concealment [of the Alvarez-Vicencio affair]. Everyone knew in Congress. I knew from Day 1 that they [Alvarez and wife, Emelita] were estranged. I knew at some point that he had an affair with this woman. I’ve seen her in functions so there was no attempt to conceal,” Roque said.

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But when told that Alvarez’s wife and their four children joined him at the podium when he took his oath as Speaker on July 25 last year and that she was the head of the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc., Roque said Alvarez “probably did not have the affair” with Vicencio yet.

“This affair might have happened after,” Roque said.

In February, Alvarez said he wanted CSFI to vacate its office at the North Wing of the Batasan Pambansa complex because the new congressmen needed office space. His wife defended him and said the foundation would look for a new office.

Not an issue

Roque said Alvarez was answerable to his constituents but it seemed the affair was not an issue to them.

As for De Lima’s affair with Dayan, Roque said what complicated things for her was that “her romance also means the commission of a possible criminal act because her partner became her bagman.”

“There is nothing of that sort in this,” Roque said, referring to the Alvarez-Vicencio affair.

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