After branding self as independent, Alan Cayetano now says he’s part of minority

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — He’s neither part of the Senate majority bloc nor of the minority one led by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, but an "independent minority" senator.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano had this to say after he was elected as the minority leader of the powerful Commission on Appointments, over which his rival for the position, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, raised "serious concerns".

"I will not join the Pimentel-Hontiveros minority because I don’t agree with some of their stance. And I want to be able to help the administration when, if possible, but to criticize and fiscalize when possible. But it’s very, very clear that I’m part of the minority," Cayetano said Thursday partly in Filipino in a news briefing.

Hontiveros had said she is not recognizing Cayetano’s leadership in the CA, a constitutional body that vets presidential appointments, as he is not a member of the Senate minority bloc.

But Cayetano said that since he did not vote for Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri to be Senate president, he automatically became part of the minority.

Still, he and his sister, Sen. Pia Cayetano, did not join the Pimentel-led minority and did not participate in the voting for a minority leader, a role which he characterized as a "sacrifice" considering the popularity of the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Alan Cayetano’s being part of an independent bloc in Congress is not new, as he also formed an independent group in the House of Representatives after his ouster as speaker in 2020.

Besides, he said that Hontiveros did not gain enough votes in plenary to become CA’s minority leader and that he has more experience having been a member of the CA and having served as foreign affairs secretary during the Duterte administration.

“Senator Risa said President [Rodrigo] Duterte is a dictator, but when it came to the CA, we voted, right? Three people voted for me, so what’s the problem?” he said.

“So bottomline, she wants the position. And I respect that. She wants to do a good job, so do I. But again, I ask her — Senator Risa, what is more important for you? We do a good job, we fiscalize, we serve our people or the position?” 

Hontiveros has said that lawmakers cannot just switch identifications on a whim, saying in a statement that this is "important for lines of accountability, and important to ensure that we have a genuine minority voice."

Alan Cayetano hit back, saying this is symptomatic of the exclusivity some members of the opposition supposedly perpetuate.

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