Duterte secures ‘super majority’ in House

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – With Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. coming here to express the Liberal Party’s  support for the incoming administration, president-elect Rodrigo Duterte has secured a “super majority” in the House of Representatives, giving him leverage to push his agenda, an ally said yesterday.

Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, a member of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), said more than 200 lawmakers are joining the bloc and would also support his bid to become House speaker.

Alvarez said Liberal Party (LP) members are among those who support his bid for the speakership.

“With the support of Speaker (Feliciano) Belmonte, we will have a super majority,” Alvarez told reporters in a chance interview here.

There are about 290 members of the House of Representatives.

Alvarez said about 60 members of the super majority belong to PDP-Laban, while the rest are from the Nacionalista Party of businessman Manuel Villar, the Nationalist People’s Coalition of tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., the National Unity Party, Lakas of detained former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and LP.

He added that the Makabayan bloc, which consists of militant party-list representatives, has also signified intention to join the majority.

Belmonte, confirmed that Alvarez is poised to succeed him as Speaker.

“He’s got it in the bag,” Belmonte said. “I think it’s common sense that the leading party should have the biggest (number of members). Even with my own experience, I saw that it was necessary that we’d be the biggest party in the coalition. I think that is a reasonable requirement.”

Asked to react to critics of politicians who move from one party to another, Belmonte said: “I don’t want to say that it is a Philippine phenomenon because that happens also in other (countries), even in Europe.” 

“We can see that the Republican-controlled Senate and House in the US are giving Obama a hard time in getting his program through. Here, I don’t think we can afford to be doing that. We don’t like stalemates. We have to keep moving,” Belmonte added.

He said Duterte, who was voted by more than 16 million people, should receive some help from Congress so that “his mandate becomes a reality.”

Alvarez said members of the Duterte economic team would also submit a list of bills they want to include in the legislative agenda.  

When asked if he was leaving LP, Belmonte replied: “We’re talking coalition at the moment. We’ll never know what happens next.”

He said the PDP-Laban was his first party after the EDSA revolution, “but they started organizing all sorts of parties. For the first six years, I did not have a party. I was a known non-partisan guy.”

Belmonte met with lawmakers from different parties yesterday to discuss coalition building and the legislative agenda of the next Congress.  

Among those present during the meeting were Reps. Rolando Andaya Jr. (Camarines Sur), Danilo Suarez (Quezon), Rodolfo Fariñas (Ilocos Norte), Fredenil Castro (Capiz), Aurelio Gonzales Jr. (Pampanga), Al Francis Bichara (Albay) and Rodel Batocabe (Ako Bicol party-list). Incoming finance secretary Carlos Dominguez III also attended the meeting.

The lawmakers met with Duterte later in the afternoon at the Malacañang of the South at the Department of Public Works and Highways Panacan Depot.

Fight for Senate presidency

For the Senate, the support of other political parties could also boost the chances of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III of becoming the next Senate president, said PDP-Laban secretary general Ben Ranque.

He said that although Duterte, also the party chairman, is keeping his distance in the selection, it is proper to give the Senate leadership to someone from the party.

Ranque told The STAR that LP support for PDP-Laban runs counter to the claim of Sen. Alan Cayetano that he already has the support of at least 15 senators for his Senate presidential bid and that of Sen. Vicente Sotto III who said his group has 18 senators.

“As far as the PDP-Laban is concerned, only the Nacionalista Party and incoming senators Migz Zubiri (and) Manny Pacquiao had publicly announced their support for Cayetano,” Ranque said.

He added that the LP and PDP-Laban alliance dates back to the agreement between PDP-Laban founder and former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and the late senator Jovito Salonga of LP.

“PDP-Laban and LP, who shared a common ideology, were the parties in power during the term of the late president Corazon Aquino, it’s just history repeating itself,” Ranque pointed out.

“It’s just coincidental that Sen. Koko Pimentel is the only PDP-Laban in the Senate and the party, including the newly accepted members, are now campaigning to their allies in the Senate for Pimentel,” Ranque said.

No rubber stamp

While Duterte’s allies have mustered enough numbers to become what they described as a super majority, Belmonte said the House would not be reduced to a mere rubber stamp of the Palace.

“It doesn’t mean that when you are in the majority, you are a ‘yes man.’ You have your own common sense and principles,” Belmonte stressed.  – With Paolo Romero, Perseus Echeminada, Christina Mendez

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