LP won’t join supermajority if it will be cut to 20 members
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Tuesday said the Liberal Party (LP) would opt not to join the majority coalition in the 17th Congress if its membership would be reduced to only 20 members.
In an interview on the sidelines of the inauguration of the new congressional library and archives, Belmonte said talks to coalesce with the majority were stalled because there was one group he did not identify that wanted to reduce the Liberal Party’s size to 20.
“There’s still a long way to go. At the moment, we have not yet signed or come to any agreement with the majority group because there are various decisions. There’s one group which would like to reduce the number of Liberals to 20, which is way below the other groups,” said Belmonte, an LP vice chair.
“In that case, I can’t be a member of such group.”
Belmonte is steering LP for survival by aligning itself with the majority coalition led by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Duterte’s pick for Speaker, Davao Del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, had said the mass exodus of lawmakers to the emerging majority coalition would reduce the minority membership to a bite-size number of 20.
The uncertain future of the Liberal Party if it joins the minority has compelled Belmonte to consider aligning his party to the majority coalition.
In the interview, Belmonte said the outgoing administration party would align with PDP-Laban only if its size would be at par with the other political parties joining the bandwagon of the majority coalition, namely Nationalist People’s Coalition, Nacionalista Party, the party-list bloc and Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats.
“If we can be at par with the other groups, then it’s a real option for me to be the head of the Liberal members who would like to form part of the coalition,” Belmonte said.
He said at least 15 Liberals would not support the speakership bid of Alvarez and thus would not be part of the majority coalition. He said these Liberals may opt to take a leave from the party and be part of the independent minority.
In Congress, lawmakers who vote for the winning speaker become part of the majority bloc while those who vote for another speaker candidate would form part of the minority. The losing speaker candidate becomes minority leader.
Belmonte earlier wanted to seek reelection as speaker but eventually conceded defeat to Alvarez.
In defending the Liberal Party’s plans to join the majority, Belmonte had said Duterte’s emerging supermajority in Congress—eyed at 260 of the 290-strong Lower House—did not mean there would no longer be a vibrant 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 in an earlier statement.
Belmonte and some Liberals earlier flew to Davao City to meet with Duterte at the so-called Malacañang of the South built on the Department of Public Works and Highways depot in Panacan. He denied seeking a position in the Duterte administration.
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 Nationalist People’s Coalition, Nacionalista Party, the party-list bloc, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, and Liberal Party.
Duterte has also gained the support of the Visayas and the Northern blocs of lawmakers in the House of Representatives. Alvarez said he was 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 a total constitutional overhaul to change the country’s system of governance to a federal state in his bid to decentralize Metro Manila’s powers to the provinces./rga
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