Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago at Congress hours prior the 4th State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte, July 22, 2019.
Philstar.com/Kat Leandicho
Makabayan solons support Abante as minority leader; Lagman abstains
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (Philstar.com) - July 22, 2019 - 2:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Makabayan bloc on Monday said it supported Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. (Manila 6th District) as minority leader of the House of Representatives — a move that was defied by opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay 1st District), who abstained from voting on a new House speaker. 

Ahead of the voting, a coalition — which included the Makabayan bloc — threw their support behind Abante, whom they call a “leader who can be collegial during debates in the crafting of laws.”

Garnering 266 votes, Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano (Taguig City-Pateros) — a solid ally of President Rodrigo Duterte — emerged as the 22nd House speaker, defeating Abante who got 28 votes. The losing candidate, by tradition, will be the minority leader.

READ: House installs Alan Peter Cayetano as speaker

“We recognize the imperative to uphold the checks and balances of power in the legislative branch, thus, the need for an independent voice that will fiscalize and scrutinize,” the coalition said in a statement.

“A genuine minority speaks truth to power in safeguarding the country and people it serves,” they added.

The lower chamber’s minority bloc is supposed to be a check on the powerful majority and has guaranteed membership in committees unlike legislators who are considered independent.

Explaining his abstention, Lagman — who, in the past, backed the Makabayan bloc’s major moves in Congress and voted with the opposition — said he decided to “remain with the independent opposition.”

“Both candidates for speaker, including the projected runner-up and presumptive minority leader, are the identical sides of the same supermajority coin,” the lawmaker from Albay said in a statement.

READ: Duterte to be on legacy and lecture mode in his 4th SONA

The Makabayan bloc is composed of lawmakers from activist groups.

The bloc was part of the House supermajority from July 2016 to September 2017, when it broke away over disagreements with Duterte administration policies such as the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, stalled peace talks with communist rebels and Duterte’s stance on Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea.

When there was a battle for the official minority bloc last year, the Makabayan lawmakers joined the “minority” bloc composed of Liberal Party legislators and members of the so-called “Magnificent 7” led by Rep. Miro Quimbo (Marikina).

LIVE UPDATES: Duterte's State of the Nation Address 2019

Rep. Edgar Erice (Caloocan) earlier said at least 10 LP House members will be joining the majority bloc led by administration allies in the lower chamber of Congress.

In a television earlier this week, Erice said the decision of LP congressmen to join the House majority is mostly out of practicality.

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