In this July 23, 2018 photo, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlo Zarate attends the third State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte. Cagadas
Makabayan fields Bayan Muna's Zarate in crowded speakership race
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - June 26, 2019 - 3:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives’ Makabayan bloc announced it is fielding Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list) for the speakership race.

The bloc, composed of lawmakers from activist groups, made the announcement Wednesday after the administration PDP-Laban party endorsed Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque) as its candidate for House speaker.

Third-termer Zarate said the people’s demands would be at the forefront of his speakership bid.

"Ang dapat pag-usapan ng speaker ay issues ng mamamayan at hindi kung i-endorso ba ng Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte at ‘yun ang pinaggagawa nila. Ano ba ang agenda ng mga tumatakbong speaker ngayon?" Zarate said.

(The speaker should talk about the issues of the people, not the endorsement of President Rodrigo Duterte. What are the agendas of the other candidates for the speakership race?)

Rep. Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers party-list) said it is high time to have a speaker who will stand up for the country’s sovereignty and uphold rights of the workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, youth and women.

“Panahon na para magkaroon ng speaker na tunay na ipaglalaban ang karapatang pantao ng lahat at titindig laban sa korupsyon,” Tinio said.

(It is time to have a speaker that would truly fight for the rights of everyone and fight against corruption.)

Despite Zarate's proclaimed principled position, his bid for the speakership is a long shot in a chamber dominated by allies of the Duterte administration. 

Makabayan will be composed of six lawmakers in the 18th Congress: Zarate, Tinio, Reps. France Castro (ACT Teachers), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan), and newcomers Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna) and Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna).

Makabayan was part of the House supermajority from July 2016 until September 2017, when it broke away over disagremeents with administration policies like the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, the stalled peace talks with communist rebels, and Duterte's stance on Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea.

"As representatives of the poor and marginalized sectors in Congress and as nationalist and progressive legislators, it would be a violation of our duties and principles to remain with a Majority that enables and defends the fascist, pro-imperialist and anti-people policies of the Duterte regime," the bloc said as it announced its departure.

Aside from Zarate and Velasco, those seeking for the House speakership include former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte), Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig) and Martin Romualdez (Leyte).

Despite his party’s endorsement of Velasco, the Palace has said the chief executive is keeping his hands off the speakership contest.

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