New House allies seek division of spoils
This early, Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, who has been anointed by presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to be the next Speaker, is being pressed for the division of “spoils” in the House of Representatives.
Alvarez, a newly elected representative of Davao del Norte province, has promised to be equitable in allocating committee leaderships among political parties joining the Coalition for Change of Duterte, a member of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Aside from the six seats for Deputy Speakers, Alvarez would have to decide how to allocate 57 committees and 20 special committees to his newfound allies in Congress.
Among the choice House committees are seats in appropriations, Commission on Appointments, franchise, accounts, ways and means, House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, public works, energy, and games and amusement.
Alvarez said that PDP-Laban would like to have its men run the committees on appropriations and accounts.
Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said Alvarez had assured the coalition of party-list groups that he would treat them as a regular bloc similar to traditional political parties in the allocation of Deputy Speaker posts and other committee seats in the 17th Congress.
The party-list bloc, which has an estimated 45 members, agreed to join the Coalition for Change on Wednesday. Its members are expected to get choice seats and probably one of them would be named Deputy Speaker.
Batocabe, spokesperson and interim head of the party-list bloc, said that for a change, the bloc wouldn’t get leftovers.
“We’ll be treated like a regular political bloc based on our numbers. We believe we deserve this treatment because we are even bigger than most political parties,” he said.
Aside from the party-list bloc, the Nacionalista Party of former Sen. Manuel Villar and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have signed an agreement to join the Coalition for Change and rally behind Alvarez as Speaker.
The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) of businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. is slated to sign a similar deal with PDP-Laban at the Diamond Hotel today. PDP-Laban is also scheduled to strike a similar deal with the National Unity Party.
With these big political blocs behind him, Alvarez said the only question left was whether PDP-Laban would get a super-majority in the 17th Congress in order to minimize any threat of impeachment against Duterte.
Alvarez is hoping to increase the members of PDP-Laban in the 17th Congress by getting independents and poaching from other parties, such as the Liberal Party (LP), which has 110 members.
“If LP joins us in the coalition, there is no need for them to shift to our party. But if the LP will be a minority bloc, then the LP members who want to join us should shift to PDP-Laban,” Alvarez said.
Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said Vice President Jejomar Binay had pushed to make the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and the Lakas-CMD the minority in Congress.
“This will ensure smoother processing of President Duterte’s legislative agenda rather than having the LP as the minority. We expect the LP to make life difficult for the administration,” Suarez said.
Based on House rules, the second-highest vote-getter in the speakership race would automatically be named minority leader. This means that UNA and Lakas must muster more votes than the LP, which is fielding Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. for the same post in the 17th Congress.
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