MANILA, Philippines – Four months after Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez acknowledged in public about having a girl friend, his wife, Emelita Apostol-Alvarez finally poured her heart out and spoke about how she was getting by, after being “abandoned” by her husband.
Mrs. Alvarez was managing a booth of the Congressional Spouses Foundation Inc. (CSFI) in an exhibit at the Manila Hotel on Friday when chanced upon by the media, and she consented to an interview.
“Actually, I was abandoned right after the SONA (State of the Nation Address) when he became Speaker (2016),” Emelita Alvarez conceded.
CSFI booted out
In February this year, the CSFI headed by Mrs. Alvarez was booted out of the premises of the Batasan Pambansa Complex on orders of the Speaker, who claimed that the room that the spouses were occupying would be used by the congressmen.
The group has since transferred to Makati City, where Mrs. Alvarez was also holding office. She said that they continue to focus on pushing socio-civic activities to complement the work of their spouses in Congress.
“I’m okay now because, actually it’s my passion to do these things, so, for me, life should go on, nothing had changed,” Mrs. Alvarez said.
Prior to this, she said she had been aware of her husband’s “other relationship,” but added that it was not abnormal for husbands or wives to have affairs.
What was not true, she said, were reports that they have long been separated.
“We’ve been together for almost 30 years, and I’ve been there since the very start. That was in 1988. we’ve been through ups and downs. I’m there and the people of Davao del Norte will testify that I was even the one who campaigned for him,” she said.
The Speaker has four children with Mrs. Alvarez. The family lives in Makati City. He also has two children from a first marriage.
In March this year, Alvarez admitted having an extramarital affair with Jennifer Vicencio, the woman reported to be at loggerheads with the girl friend of Representative Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr., his erstwhile pal who he is now his political nemesis, and who he is accusing of having committed graft.
“My God. Who’s without a girl friend anyway?” he had remarked casually when asked about it.
Since then, Alvarez has been pushing for legislation that have to do with marriage. One is House Bill 5268, in which he proposed that all properties brought into the marriage, including those acquired during the boyfriend-girlfriend period, shall be considered co-owned by the couple in equal share.
The two other bills, which have yet to be filed, have something to do with civil unions and dissolution of marriage. The latter allows a party to the marriage to get out of the relationship even without the other’s consent.
Dissolution of marriage
Alvarez said his push for the dissolution of marriage was not for himself, but for couples who are trapped in loveless relationships. He said he does not need it because he is a member of the Manobo tribe, which allows polygamy.
Asked about this, Mrs. Alvarez said, “When we got married, I know he’s a Catholic, but just when he converted to a Manobo, I don’t know. I respect him for that, it’s his faith, hindi ako nakikialam pagdating sa religion (I don’t meddle when it comes to religion).”
Mrs. Alvarez remarked bills such as the dissolution of marriage are not the type of legislation that should be prioritized by Congress. She believes it is gender-biased and would benefit mostly the men.
“I’m not talking about my feelings, but how I feel for the Filipino people. For them, I’m saying that that bill is gender-biased palagi na lang talo ang babae (women always end up on the short end),” she said.
She added, “As a mother, you give birth to a child. Who’s the home maker and child career? The mother stays at home, takes care of the children.”
At the losing end
In the case of the separation of properties, she said women are at the losing end: “The girl is lucky if she’s working, but if not, what next after the separation? You have to give equal support. Is there gender sensitivity there?” she said.
She said she was willing to “go through the due process” as required by the Philippine laws, when asked about the prospective annulment of their marriage.
If the Speaker was pursuing the passage of these bills to get out of their marriage, then she would be prepared to be a “sacrificial lamb by moving for legal separation to stop the dissolution bill from going forward,” Mrs. Alvarez said. “My relationship is not illicit … My relationship with him [Alvarez] is legal, so I just leave it up to God.” she underscored.
Asked if she has a message for Vicencio, she said, “I don’t have any message to her, in the end she would realize how difficult it is to have a family that unravels. For us Filipinos, it’s in our nature to take care of our family.” (Additional reportage: Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon)