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Aquino House forces forming ‘CORE’ to stop Arroyo bid for Speaker

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:54:00 05/14/2010

Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Eleksyon 2010, Congress

MANILA, Philippines?Goodbye rainbow coalition of Lakas-Kampi-CMD. Hello CORE (Conscience and Reform) coalition of the Liberal Party.

Allies of Sen. Benigno Aquino III, the most likely president-elect, are gathering their forces in the House of Representatives to install Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. as Speaker in the 15th Congress.

They are belittling the chances of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, newly elected representative of Pampanga?s second district, to gather enough votes to pip the incoming president?s choice.

The 73-year-old Belmonte, the newly elected representative of Quezon City?s fourth district, served as Speaker in the 11th Congress.

Deputy Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, who won a second straight term, said the CORE alliance?s base would be composed of 44 Liberal Party congressional candidates who won in the elections.

They would be beefed up by members of the Nationalist People?s Coalition, allied party-list representatives and key members of the Nacionalista Party and Lakas-Kampi-CMD, Gonzales said.

?In a working coalition, we have to strike a balance on how to share legislative responsibilities, including chairmanship of various committees,? he said.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD is expected to field Ms Arroyo in its bid to retain its grip on the House.

The 15th Congress is expected to have 287 members, including party-list groups (20 percent of the seats or 57), and a Speaker needs to get a simple majority vote.

Political survival

Gonzales said he doubted whether Ms Arroyo could muster enough numbers up to July 26 to snag the Speakership.

?After June 30, the political reality that there is a new president will sink in to her allies who all have to look after their individual political survival. If they think they can survive without the support of the incoming President, they may stay with the President. Otherwise, they will leave her,? Gonzales said.

Aquino said during the election campaign that he expected to have a Speaker who?s an ally if he won, just like all post-Edsa I administrations.

But while Aquino was headed toward winning with the biggest electoral mandate since the 1969 presidential election, his magic did not rub off on party mates who fared miserably in the local elections.

Only 44 out of the 122 candidates the Liberal Party fielded for congressional posts have so far won. The party?s lone bright spot was Metro Manila where it won 14 of the 19 legislative districts.

The low winning rate of Liberal Party candidates, however, is not discouraging Belmonte.

Making calls

Belmonte has been making calls to allies of Ms Arroyo to enlist their support for his bid for the speakership, said Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lakas-Kampi-CMD vice president for Mindanao.

Belmonte was senior vice president for external affairs of Lakas-Kampi-CMD until he defected to the Liberal Party before the campaign started.

?So they should not take that lightly as well,? Zubiri said, telling reporters that Belmonte had been ?calling so many congressmen, including my siblings and allies in Bukidnon.? With a report from Michael Lim Ubac

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