Aquino allies aim to control HouseBy Gil C. Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Not content with just electing the Speaker of the House of Representatives, congressional allies of President Aquino are poised to take full control of the Lower House by snatching the minority leadership from the dwindling opposition.
San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora is banking on the votes of some administration lawmakers to beat aspiring Minority Leader Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), the recognized opposition party in the House.
“If the President’s allies take control of the majority and the minority, Congress will become a sham,” said outgoing Minority Leader Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez.
“We already have about 20 (votes), halo-halo (from various parties),” said Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, one of Zamora’s staunch supporters, when asked how many had committed to Zamora less than a month before the voting on July 22.
Suarez claimed Romualdez had secured the commitment of at least 20 lawmakers, less than half of them from Lakas-CMD which has only nine members in the 16th Congress.
Without the backing of the administration allies in Congress, winning the post would be a breeze for Romualdez, said Suarez.
Both Zamora and Romualdez are wooing the militant bloc of party-list group Makabayan, which has emerged as the swing vote in the battle for Minority Leader.
Makabayan can’t decide
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said Makabayan, which would have at least seven seats in the next Congress (an eighth is still possible with Piston’s pending eligibility case) has not yet decided whom to back in the minority race.
Aside from Makabayan, Zamora is also courting the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) for support.
But UNA spokesman Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco denied that the coalition formed by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and former President Joseph Estrada would support Zamora.
“UNA has no final decision yet, whether to join the majority or minority in the House. But definitely Zamora is not UNA’s bet for minority leader. Zamora’s group is asking for UNA’s support for his bid. But UNA did not make any commitment to him,” said Tiangco in a text message.
“Zamora was for (Sen. Manuel) Villar in 2010, so my understanding is his last national party is the Nacionalista Party, which was in a coalition with the LP in 2013. His only association with UNA is by virtue of his joining the JV Estrada-Guia Gomez-led local party, Partido Magdiwang in San Juan. So has he resigned or is he still a member of the Nacionalista Party? I think that is a very important matter that has to be answered categorically, for the record.”
Albano said Zamora was an “independent” member of the Nacionalista Party, which fielded three winning senatorial candidates (Cynthia Villar, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV) in the Team PNoy coalition.
Labels don’t matter
“Labels such as administration or opposition do not matter anymore in legislation. You are either part of the majority or minority depending on whom you vote for as Speaker (the one with the second highest votes becomes Minority Leader). You can be a minority without being opposed to the President,” said Albano in a phone interview. “We want a constructive opposition and not an obstructionist opposition.”
Albano is with the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which is also part of the administration coalition. “We can be a part of the minority and yet remain with our party which belongs to the administration. There is no conflict, it’s not a heaven or hell situation,” said Albano.