Belmonte: ‘Supermajority’ doesn’t spell end for opposition
Outgoing Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. allayed fears that the House of Representatives will no longer have an opposition because of the “supermajority” which cemented the clout of president-elect Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives.
In a statement Monday night, Belmonte said Duterte’s “supermajority” in Congress may be taken in a positive light because this means the House of Representatives, the lower branch of Congress, may pass pet bills of the administration efficiently to benefit the people.
“Let me allay fears on what is now dubbed as a ‘Supermajority.’ This is a coalition that denotes strength and unity in numbers for the speedier passage of measures that can benefit majority of our people,” Belmonte said.
“I believe it can be viewed positively as a means to becoming more responsive to our people’s needs, and in a timelier manner,” he added.
Belmonte of the Liberal Party clarified that talks are still ongoing about the outgoing administration party aligning itself with Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Belmonte said he also respected several Liberals jumping to the PDP-Laban.
Incoming Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, Duterte’s pick for Speaker, boasted of securing a supermajority in Congress by gaining the support of 260 of the 290-member strong House of Representatives to clinch the Speaker post.
Belmonte himself had ceded defeat and instead of seeking reelection only to lose as minority speaker, he opted to join the majority and vote Alvarez for Speaker. He said he wanted the Liberal Party to join the coalition instead of dissolving into a small minority party.
Belmonte said Duterte’s clout in Congress does not mean there is no more opposition in Congress.
“This, in no way means the disappearance of an opposition. There will always be an opposition within a democracy and I have and always will uphold my belief in the democratic processes and put the interest of our people and of our Constitution as my foremost priority,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte and some Liberals flew to Davao City on June 7 to meet with Duterte at the so-called Malacanang of the South built on the Department of Public Works and Highways depot in Panacan.
Belmonte quelled speculations that he sought a position in the incoming administration when he met Duterte in Davao city.
He said should Duterte offer him a position, he would respectfully deny the offer.
“There has been increasing speculation in the news on my courtesy call to President-elect Duterte in Davao City and what ensued during that meeting,” Belmonte said.
“Let me say, for the record, that I have never sought any position nor been offered any. I have also never issued any statement to this effect to anyone. And, In the event that an offer is made, I will respectfully decline the same,” he added.
From just three members in the incoming 17th Congress, Duterte’s PDP-Laban has grown to a potent force in Congress, with various coalition partners from major political parties such as the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the Nacionalista Party, the party-list bloc, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrat and LP.
Duterte has also gained the support of the Visayas and the Northern blocs of lawmakers in the House of Representatives. Alvarez said he is also in talks with the militant Makabayan bloc for them to join the majority coalition.
Duterte is seeking clout in Congress in his bid to fast track the passage of his legislative agenda, among others the reinstatement of the death penalty for heinous crimes (which was abolished in 2006 under the Arroyo administration), as well as constitutional amendment to change the country’s system of governance to a federal state in an attempt to decentralize Metro Manila’s powers to the provinces. IDL