House squabble shifts to minority leader position
Breaking his silence since his ouster as Speaker, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said he was ready to “move forward” after the acrimonious squabble with newly installed Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Alang-alang sa bayan (For the sake of the nation), let’s get back to work and move forward,” Alvarez said in a text message to the Inquirer.
He and Arroyo met behind closed doors on Wednesday afternoon. Asked what they agreed upon, he replied: “Nothing.”
Alvarez said he and his allies intended to be part of the minority.
“Under our rules we belong to the minority,” he said.
But Arroyo, according to him, did not make any concessions as to whether he or outgoing Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas would be installed minority leader.
“No, but we will follow the rules,” he said.
Arroyo told reporters that it appeared that Alvarez would cooperate with her leadership but declined to give details.
“I’m not talking about our privileged conversation,” she said.
With the speakership settled, factions in the House are angling for the position of minority leader.
3 contending groups
As of Wednesday, at least three groups have laid a claim: the current Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, who voted for Arroyo as Speaker; the 12-member Liberal Party (LP) bloc, which abstained during voting; and Alvarez’s group.
Suarez said at a press briefing he changed his mind about joining the majority and had been persuaded to keep his position.
The Alvarez group has reportedly picked Fariñas as its leader.
The progressive Makabayan bloc, for its part, said it was prepared to ally with other groups for as long as there was a clear basis for unity.
The LP stressed its members were now the rightful minority under House rules, as they were the ones who did not vote for Speaker.
The group has chosen Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo to be the minority leader.
Representatives Quimbo, Francis Gerald Abaya, Kaka Bag-ao, Teddy Baguilat, Bolet Banal, Kit Belmonte, Gabby Bordado, Raul Daza, Toff de Venecia, Edgar Erice, Edcel Lagman and Jocelyn Limkaichong sent a letter to Arroyo stating they held an “organizational meeting” on Wednesday as the minority group.
Quimbo said that when he abstained from the voting, he considered himself resigned as Deputy Speaker, a position he held when Alvarez was Speaker.
In a press conference joined by most of the signatories, Quimbo said that House rules were clear that during an election for Speaker, those who did not vote for the winner and those who abstained would be the minority.
A total of 184 lawmakers elected Arroyo to replace Alvarez as Speaker on Monday.
Quimbo said those who were not present during the voting would have to apply for admission to the majority and minority groups.
In a statement, the LP congressmen said “the rules and process that allowed Arroyo to ascend to her position are the same rules and process that determined who the members of the minority bloc are.”
“Others who claim to be the minority, but voted for the new Speaker, cannot do so. They are part of the majority,” they added.
The lawmakers were apparently referring to Suarez who has not formally relinquished his position as minority leader despite voting for Arroyo.
“It’s clear who is the true and legal minority. We are open to other colleagues in joining our ranks,” the LP lawmakers said.
Lagman said Suarez and his group who voted to elect Arroyo “ousted themselves.”
He said the minority group would “balloon” in membership “very soon.”
Lagman said he and other members — Daza, Baguilat, Erice, Tom Villarin, Gary Alejano and Emmanuel Billones — of the Magnificent 7 bloc would retain their group amid the change of speaker.
“It has been the authentic minority bloc in the House since the start of the 17th Congress. It provides credible, critical and responsible opposition to the Duterte administration and the congressional majority,” he said.
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