Alvarez a cinch for speakership as Belmonte sees possible loss
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Friday said majority of the members of the Liberal Party (LP) in the House of Representatives are shifting their support for the Congress leadership bid to newly elected Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.
In a text message, Belmonte, who is also LP vice chair, said that with majority of the numbers favoring Alvarez, even he was sure the Mindanao congressman would be the next Speaker.
Belmonte is seeking to reclaim the Speaker post, counting on the numbers of around 100 LP members, but it looks like he has conceded to the anointed Speaker of presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
Confirming that he met with the Speaker aspirant at his home on Thursday, Belmonte said many Liberals were planning to shift to the majority to vote for Alvarez, one of three members of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) in the 17th Congress.
“We talked at my house yesterday. I told him most of the Liberal Party bloc would like to join the majority and support the Duterte administration and him for Speaker,” Belmonte said.
“I’m sure he will be the next Speaker,” he said.
Reduced to minority
Asked about Alvarez’s claim that no less than 50 or half of the Liberals in the incoming Congress had shifted their support to PDP-Laban, Belmonte said, “maybe more.”
If Belmonte loses to Alvarez as Speaker, he will be the minority leader in Congress, according to the House rules.
Alvarez has said with half of the Liberals joining PDP-Laban, the ruling party will be reduced to the minority in Congress.
As of his latest count, Alvarez said he had 180 lawmakers across party lines to his side, more than the majority of the 290-member House.
Duterte is consolidating his forces in the lower house to push for his legislative agenda, which includes the reinstatement of the death penalty and the amendment of the Constitution by constitutional convention to convert the country’s system of government to federal.
Seen as big boost to Alvarez’s speakership bid are PDP-Laban’s coalition agreements with major political parties including the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the country’s second biggest political party next to the Liberal Party with 44 incoming representatives; the Nacionalista Party; the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats; and the party-list bloc.
The NPC is the latest political party to ally itself with the party of Duterte after its presidential and vice presidential bets lost in the May 2016 elections.
No cosmetic deal
NPC on Friday signed a coalition agreement with Duterte’s PDP-Laban, promising to support the new administration and its candidate for House Speaker, Alvarez.
NPC backed the tandem of Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero in the recently concluded polls.
“This is not a cosmetic agreement. This is an agreement based on substance,” said PDP-Laban president Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III at the agreement signing in Makati yesterday.
Pimentel said he expects NPC to support the plans of Duterte, which include federalism.
“Let us give the idea a chance,” he said.
He said Duterte also plans to pursue peace, wage an all-out war against crime and corruption, expand the middle class, tax reform, address the daily concerns of the common man and bring about inclusive growth so that the lowest levels of society will feel the effects of economic growth.
“Although not spelled out in the agreement, PDP-Laban expects the support of NPC and all others signing agreements with us to this core legislative agenda of the President which are not really objectionable,” Pimentel said.
NPC president Giorgidi Aggabao said the agreement with PDP-Laban also binds the entire apparatus of the party in support of the Duterte administration’s programs.
“We’re hoping that with this agreement, NPC as a huge political party would continue to support the legislative agenda of the incoming administration,” Aggabao said.
Though Alvarez’s PDP-Laban is one of the smaller political parties, it has forged agreements with the bigger groups.
LP was the leading party in the House during the six-year term of President Aquino.
It started out as a small party but its membership ballooned in 2010 after politicians of various stripes jumped ship and joined the group. Now, its ranks are set to be decimated. TVJ
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