More LP solons jump ship to join ruling party
Stalwarts of the ruling Liberal Party joined the exodus to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) as an LP leader, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., hemmed and hawed on whether he himself should join the majority coalition in the House of Representatives.
Incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s handpicked Speaker in the 17th Congress, told reporters on Thursday that he had been waiting for Belmonte’s final decision either to join the coalition or lead the minority.
Belmonte has so far held his cards close to his chest, declining to reveal his game plan under the incoming Duterte administration that has announced a far-reaching legislative agenda that includes amending the 1987 Constitution and shifting the country to the federal system.
On Thursday, Alvarez swore in 13 new members to PDP-Laban, 10 of whom were from the LP—Iloilo City Rep. Jerry P. Treñas, leader of the Visayas bloc and one of the biggest supporters of losing presidential candidate Mar Roxas; Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali, chair of the House committee on energy and brother of President Aquino’s best friend, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Alfonso Umali; Catanduanes Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento, chair of the House committee on transportation; Leyte Rep. Lucy Torres Gomez; Camarines Norte Rep. Renato Unico Jr.; Sorsogon Rep. Deogracias B. Ramos Jr.; Guimaras Rep. Ma. Lucille Nava; Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Glona Labadlabad; North Cotabato Rep. Jesus N. Sacdalan; Maguindanao Rep. Zajid G. Mangudadatu.
The new PDP-Laban members who were sworn in at a simple ceremony at the Dusit Hotel were Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. and La Union Rep. Sandra Eriguel of the Nationalist People’s Coalition; and Leyte Rep. Vicente Sofronio Veloso of the National Unity Party.
Alvarez said he was supposed to meet with Belmonte yesterday but it was canceled at the last minute. “He is still probably gathering data,” Alvarez said.
He reiterated that the LP could join the coalition without leaving the party provided that none of them would join the minority.
Alvarez said he did not agree with Belmonte’s plan for the bulk of LP members to join the House majority while he and a small contingent of LP members would take control of the minority bloc. He said any LP member joining the majority would have to switch to PDP-Laban if Belmonte insisted on running the minority bloc.
Belmonte himself said Mr. Aquino had approved the plan of most LP members to join the Duterte coalition in order to get a proportionate share of the committee chairmanships and memberships.
An LP member, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak for the party, said while Belmonte had kept party mates guessing on his plans, most LP members had decided to jump ship to ensure that they get first crack or priority in the distribution of congressional posts.
Among the first to leave the LP was Ilocos Sur Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas who Alvarez said would be his majority floor leader.
PDP-Laban vice chair Alfonso Cusi estimated that at least 60 members had been added to PDP-Laban’s House roster which started with only three members. Cusi said the bulk of the new PDP-Laban members were from the LP.
Alvarez expected PDP-Laban to have 80-100 members at the end of its recruitment.
The LP is the only major party left in the House which has not signed a coalition agreement to support Duterte’s legislative agenda and Alvarez as Speaker made up of the Nacionalista Party, Nationalist People’s Coalition, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, Makabayan bloc and Party-List Coalition bloc, the Coalition for Change is expected to have as much 90 percent, or 260 of the 290, members in the 17th Congress.
No conditional alliance
On Thursday, Alvarez signed a coalition agreement with the National Unity Party (made up of members of Kampi party who were originally allied with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Lakas-CMD).
Alvarez said former Interior Secretary and NUP founding chair Ronaldo Puno would be a “valuable asset” to any group and “an institution by himself.”
Puno, the campaign strategist of losing presidential candidate Jejomar Binay, agreed with Alvarez’s hard line stance on LP’s participation in the coalition.
“It doesn’t only look bad (LP members joining both majority and minority), any party joining PDP-Laban has obligations to the coalition. Just like us (NUP), we allied with PDP-Laban and the first step we did was invite and elect Alvarez as honorary chair. If (the LP) will not do that, it will be an empty gesture,” Puno said in an interview.
He said the LP could not have its cake and eat it too even if it had the most number of elected members in the 17th Congress with 115.
“There is no such thing as conditional alliance when talking about House realities. Either you are with us or against us,” Puno said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.