MANILA, Philippines – The Liberal Party (LP) bloc in the House of Representatives led by Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has decided to join the super majority of incoming speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
“SB will lead the LP contingent in House majority coalition,” Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said last night in a text message, referring to Belmonte.
“SB has set aside his aspiration to be minority leader in deference to concerns from other members. This will show our unequivocal support now to the Duterte administration, which had a strong mandate from the electorate and recently garnered the highest acceptance rating from the people,” he said.
A source, who asked not to be identified, said Alvarez and the Belmonte bloc would sign a coalition agreement today.
Early this week, Belmonte said the inclination of his group is to be the “constructive minority.”
He estimated that he would have between 30 to 35 remaining LP loyalists, including Castelo and other Quezon City colleagues.
The LP had more than 100 House members elected on May 9, but since the victory of President Duterte, who belongs to PDP-Laban, LP lawmakers started defecting to the new ruling party.
The PDP-Laban, which had only three members including Alvarez, has grown to more than 100.
With the decision of the Belmonte bloc to join the majority, the minority leader will now come from the ranks of former vice president Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance and some party-list representatives.
Reps. Danilo Suarez of Quezon and Tobias Tiangco of Navotas, two Binay allies, were aspiring for the minority leader’s post. But Tiangco, who is UNA president, has reportedly given up his aspiration.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the remaining LP congressmen, earlier warned House members that the minority under Suarez would be a “company union.”
Lagman said Suarez had met with Duterte and Alvarez and volunteered to be minority leader.
But the Quezon congressman said the statement of his colleague from Albay was unfair to him.
“We were invited to meet with the President to discuss his legislative agenda. There were leaders of political parties in the House who were there. The minority leadership was not discussed,” he said.
The so-called super majority bloc in the Senate behind incoming Senate president Aquilino Pimentel III is now even stronger with the addition of one or maybe even two more senators, two days before the opening of the 17th Congress.
Pimentel revealed Sen. Cynthia Villar would join the super majority, which now has 20 members.
He said the number could go up to 21 as he expects Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano to join too.
Just the other day, Pimentel confirmed three senators belonging to the group of Cayetano –Richard Gordon, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Joseph Victor Ejercito – have decided to join him in the super majority.
Pimentel added Sen. Joel Villanueva has also aired his support for him as Senate president.
Pimentel told dwIZ that Villar, who was among the first to back Cayetano’s bid for the Senate presidency, has decided to join the super majority.
Discussions have been made regarding the committees that the latest additions to the bloc would be getting as part of their move to shift alliances.
Gordon would be heading the Blue Ribbon committee, which he used to head in his previous stint as senator.
Pimentel said Villar would get the committee on environment and natural resources, since her first choice, the committee on agriculture, had already been promised to Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
Last Tuesday, Pimentel met with Cayetano and Sen. Vicente Sotto III at a dinner hosted by President Duterte.
Before the President, Pimentel recalled Cayetano saying “we belong to one camp,” so there is no point in attacking each other.