Pulong, 30 PDP-Laban congressmen join NUP
Presidential son and Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte led more than 30 other congressmen in joining the National Unity Party (NUP) in an apparent tipping of the balance in the House of Representatives.
Party officials, who asked not to be identified, said most of the new members were from Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), President Duterte’s political party.
The new members expressed disappointment at how Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano distributed committee posts among groups that were expecting an “equitable sharing” of assignments.
Some of the 30 lawmakers have already been inducted while others have yet to formally announce their transfer because of a party meeting set on Tuesday in Quezon City.
If the transfer pushes through, PDP-Laban’s 95-strong bloc will be reduced to around 65 while NUP will dramatically increase its House membership from 16 to 46.
The exodus arose after PDP-Laban members were dismayed after they were “abandoned” by three party leaders—Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Salvador Leachon—who they tasked as “negotiators” for committee positions.
Gonzales and Pimentel have both been elected as deputy speakers while Leachon was picked to lead the chamber’s contingent to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), which adjudicates all election protests of House members.
“Others felt bad after the three supposed negotiators got plum positions but left their members out in the cold,” one source said.
Other congressmen questioned the propriety of Leachon heading the HRET panel because the body will soon hear a pending electoral protest against him.
The Inquirer sought Leachon’s comment but he had not yet responded at press time.
Meanwhile, 40 chairmanships of the House’s 61 standing committees remain unfilled. Most of the 20 that have been filled were given to the House’s second-largest group, the party list bloc formally known as the Partylist Coalition Foundation Inc. (PCFI).
For the first time in House history, three party list lawmakers have been elected deputy speakers: Rep. Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip), Rep. Eduardo Villanueva (Cibac) and Rep. Conrad Estrella (Abono).
Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy and Rep. Claudine Diana Bautista (Dumper) were also picked as deputy majority leader and assistant majority leader, respectively.
Possible mass exodus
For the minority bloc, PCFI members who landed important posts were Abang Lingkod Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano as deputy minority leader, and Magsasaka Rep. Argel Joseph Cabatbat as assistant minority leader.
Another party list lawmaker, ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap, was chosen to lead the committee on games and amusements, one of the biggest memberships with nine vice chairpersons and 31 members.
But even the PCFI faces the possibility of a mass exodus after its leader, Rep. Michael Romero of 1Pacman, purportedly committed the bloc to the speakership bid of Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco without the consent of other members.
Disgruntled congressmen complained that while they were part of the majority backing a proadministration legislative agenda, they were being made to beg for positions.
“It also does not sit well with other House members who … feel like they are begging for committees while other ‘favored’ ones got multiple placements,” one source said.
Former NUP president and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, who earlier confirmed that Representative Duterte had been “adopted” as a member, did not discount the possibility of him being elected as party leader.
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