LP joining House ruling coalition
THE LIBERAL Party (LP) will join the “Coalition for Change” led by Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to support incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s legislative agenda in the 17th Congress.
Speaking in a radio interview on Sunday, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said President Aquino, the LP chair, had given the party the go-signal to support Duterte and his handpicked Speaker, incoming Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte province.
Belmonte said most of the 115 House members who won the May 9 election as LP candidates expected to shift to the PDP-Laban coalition, but Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, LP political affairs chief, said neither the party nor the President had signed off on the plan for the LP to support Duterte.
“There is no party decision as far as I my knowledge is concerned that mandates party members from not joining the minority or vice versa,” Erice said on Sunday.
“The party as a whole wants to be part of the majority. And we are negotiating it,” Belmonte said.
He said the majority of LP members joining the ruling coalition would carry the mantle of the party while the handful who would stay with the minority “need not retain the name LP or be associated with the majority LP.”
The decision to join the majority was meant to comply with Duterte’s directive that all LP members joining the majority must join PDP-Laban if Belmonte and the LP would be the minority bloc.
To firm things up
Belmonte said he had not signed the declaration of support for PDP-Laban and Alvarez because he was planning to call a meeting to firm things up after the proclamation of Duterte.
“A week ago, we both agreed what to do, which means to say that he (Alvarez) will accept the LP as a party within the coalition,” the Speaker said, pointing out that the LP coalition in the 15th and 16th Congress did not require members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition or United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to switch to the ruling party.
Belmonte said the President, who served three terms in the House, had taken a “realistic attitude” toward the LP’s decision to cooperate with Duterte’s party in the 17th Congress.
“He prefers that the LP go with the majority and vote, support President Duterte and Congressman Alvarez. He prefers that [the LP] move as a group,” Belmonte said.
“But he knows that will not happen. He is realistic to know all of that because he went through this before,” Belmonte said, noting that the LP split up into two factions—one with Senate President Franklin Drilon and the other with Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza—during the Arroyo administration.
Erice, however, claimed that in the LP meeting with the President in Malacañang last week, the party agreed to ally itself with PDP-Laban if some members would be named committee chairs.
He said that without an equitable share, Belmonte would run for Speaker and, with Alvarez’s superior numbers, possibly end up as the minority leader.
“The LP will respect individual members who would want to join the minority, but they will have to inform the leadership,” Erice said.
He said he would stay in the minority as an LP member “to provide a different view of things.”
Belmonte said LP members who campaigned for losing presidential candidate Mar Roxas would not look bad in the majority because this was a tradition in the House.
He cited as an example the allies of the late Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr. who abandoned Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) less than a week after Mitra lost the 1992 presidential election to Fidel V. Ramos.
“I first became a congressman in 1992, and I see this (turncoatism) every year. I hope we can change the system. But under our current Constitution, almost everybody can form a party. I guess it’s something that we have to expect,” Belmonte said.
He said he felt betrayed that some of his closest allies had abandoned the LP and switched to PDP-Laban, but he had accepted it because it was the reality in Philippine politics.
But overall, Belmonte said he did not feel bad that some LP members had decided to switch to the new ruling party because their motives were reasonable—some just wanted to ensure the continued flow of projects to their districts, and others wanted to advance their careers by getting better positions.
With 290 House members fighting for the spoils, however, Belmonte said it was likely that some would not get any share and stay with the opposition.
The LP is not the only party vying to lead the minority in the House, as UNA and the Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats have also signified their interest to serve as fiscalizers.
With two months to go before the 17th Congress sits, Belmonte said a lot of things could still happen, including the usual horse trading between parties.
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