MANILA - After the dramatic change in speakership at the House of Representatives, the next battleground in the chamber's reorganization appears to be the leadership of the opposition bloc.
The Makabayan Bloc, the remnants of the Liberal Party (LP) and its allies, and the current House Minority will be competing with the bloc of ousted House leader Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez for control of the minority that is supposed to be a check and balance on the speakership.
Under current House rules, the minority leader is elected by those who did not elect the winning speaker from among themselves.
Current House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez on Tuesday had expressed interest to join the majority led by newly-installed House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo since he is a staunch ally of the former president.
By Tuesday night, he walked back that idea after he heard that Rodolfo Fariñas—Alvarez’s majority leader—had met Arroyo to discuss his minority leadership through the remaining bloc of Alvarez loyalists.
Of the 24 remaining LP lawmakers, five voted for Arroyo, including former Speaker Sonny Belmonte. Seven were absent during Arroyo’s election while 12 abstained.
The group already includes the bloc known as the Magnificent 7 congressmen who had fiscalized the Alvarez speakership.
The Makabayan bloc of progressive, leftist lawmakers have consistently been a check and balance on all administrations.
Makabayan bloc’s ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said they are interested in the minority leadership, stressing that they have fiscalized everyone.
Tinio said they are interested in working with anyone out to fiscalize Duterte. Tinio confirmed they are talking to the Liberal Party.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said they are looking at the basis of unity to expand the opposition in the House.
However, if they cannot find common ground, the bloc will remain independent rather than compromise their principles.
Tinio added it’s a numbers game and that the precedent in previous congress sessions is that the majority sends some of its allies to elect a friendly minority.
Tinio explained that the majority makes sure no minority bloc gets 50 lawmakers as members since that number could cause significant delays in floor deliberations since the rules allow a vote by a fifth of the quorum for nominal voting.
For Tinio, the easiest option for Arroyo now is retain her ally Suarez as minority leader.
LP IS THE NEW MINORITY
In a press conference, the 12 LP lawmakers who abstained from voting for the speaker announced that they are constituting themselves as the legitimate minority of the House of Representatives.
According to the rules, they say that they are the minority and they have to send a letter to Arroyo to inform her of their intention and their compliance with House Rules as far as this is concerned.
They are also eyeing Representative Miro Quimbo as the new Minority Leader.
According to Quimbo, he effectively resigned as Deputy Speaker when he abstained from voting for the new House speaker.