House factions disagree on who should be 'real' minority
Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that she would let the minority lawmakers settle the issue of leadership among themselves.
AP/Aaron Favila

House factions disagree on who should be 'real' minority

Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - July 26, 2018 - 12:48pm

MANILA, Philippines — The confusion at the House of Representatives continues as factions of legislators contend for recognition as the chamber’s official minority bloc.

Liberal Party lawmakers and the bloc of Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte), erstwhile House speaker, are laying claim to constituting the minority bloc, which is supposed to be a check on the powerful majority.

The separate seven-member Makabayan bloc said that while it is “willing and able” to take on the leadership of the House minority, it is also ready to tie up with other groups to oppose the Duterte administration’s “anti-people” agenda.

Under the House's rules “Members who vote for the winning candidate for speaker shall constitute the majority in the House and they shall elect from among themselves the majority leader… The minority leader shall be elected by the members of the minority and can be changed, at any time, by a majority vote of all the minority members."

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said that she would let the minority lawmakers settle the issue of minority leadership among themselves.

The duly-recognized minority has guaranteed membership in committees while lawmakers who are considered independents do not.

‘Duly-constituted minority’

On Wednesday, 12 lawmakers from the Liberal Party declared they were the “duly-constituted minority.”

The LP members abstained from voting last Monday when Arroyo took over the House leadership, unseating Alvarez.

The group has chosen former Rep. Miro Quimbo (Marikina) as its leader.

“Our presence on the floor to express our abstention shows that we are the true minority. We are ready, willing and able to be the true minority that will act as responsible, reasonable and credible fiscalizers in the House of the People,” the Quimbo-led faction said.

The Makabayan bloc, which has almost consistently been in the opposition, said it is open to join LP members and the House’s "Magnificent 7."

Despite a show of unity at a protest during the president's State of the Nation Address on Monday, there may be some tension as the political opposition regroups.

In a tweet, Rep. Gary Alejano (Magdalo party-list) said Wednesday: "The Makabayan Block [sic] said that they have been a consistent opposition to Duterte admin. Were they not part of the majority before? Were they not silent with the murderous policy of Duterte before? Just a reminder..."

The Makabayan bloc was part of the Alvarez-led supermajority but left over disagreements with the Duterte administration's policies on, among others, the peace talks with communist rebels and on the government's "war on drugs."

Teddy Casiño, a former Bayan Muna party-list representative, in his own post said the LP may have been presumptuous in claiming to be the House's new minority bloc. "They are not the only ones who opposed or objected to GMA’s power grab for the speakership. In fact, the LP at one point elected GMA as their honorary chairperson," he said.

READLP solons form House minority bloc under Arroyo leadership

'The minority remains with the minority'

Rep. Danilo Suarez (Quezon), who has led a minority bloc that has generally been friendly to the administration, declared Wednesday that he is still the minority leader and will remain so until the end of the 17th Congress.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque was a member of the House minority until Duterte brought him to Malacañang.

Rep. Lito Atienza (Buhay party-list), one of Suarez’s deputies, said on ANC’s “Headstart” Thursday that the house minority leadership was never declared vacant. 

“The minority remains with the minority,” Atienza said. 

He added that those who want to join the minority should write a request to Suarez. “Otherwise, they’ll be classified as independent.”

“Former Minority Leader Suarez cannot be minority leader because he’s already part of the majority,” Rep. Quimbo said.

In the past, the candidate for the top House post who obtained the second highest number of votes was declared minority leader.

Alvarez, allies seeking to be minority bloc

The camp of ousted speaker Alvarez and his allies also expressed intent to be the House’s official minority bloc.

But Rep. Edgar Erice (Caloocan City) said that Alvarez being in the same party as Speaker Arroyo would make it a “highly anomalous situation.”

Alvarez and Arroyo are both members of PDP-Laban.

“GMA should not allow this. As a veteran parliamentarian and former president, she has the responsibility to protect the real minority. Otherwise, this Congress will be the same as the rotted Alvarez House, which we ousted,” Erice said.

READOusted speaker told: 'No vacancy in minority'

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