Belmonte eyes minority post
THE DECIMATED Liberal Party (LP) is not joining President Duterte’s coalition in the House of Representatives. Instead former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. will run for minority leader in the 17th Congress.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said the remaining members of the once dominant LP met on Tuesday and agreed to play a “constructive” minority role.
“We will not be obstructionist. We intend to serve as fiscalizers in crafting legislation to reflect the true will of the people,” Castelo said in a text message.
Belmonte admitted that recent talks on a coalition between the LP and the now dominant party, Mr. Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, broke down after the latter insisted the LP members join the PDP-Laban, which would reduce the LP roster to “bite size.”
“Before the 16th Congress adjourned, we had a meeting in which most of the LPs wanted to join the majority as a coalition partner. It took so long to do it mainly on the insistence that we be reduced to 20, which is totally unacceptable,” Belmonte said in a text message.
“Meantime they kept recruiting from us until we were down to about 35 from 116,” he added, alluding to the membership of the LP.
Had the LP maintained its size, President Duterte would be vulnerable to impeachment, which only requires a one-third vote of the 290-member House to be carried out.
The President’s PDP-Laban has highly increased its membership in the House from an initial three, including incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, to 94, many of them former LP members.
“Most of them (LP) chose to be in the minority with me as minority leader. I am supportive of President Duterte’s administration, but we need a credible minority,” Belmonte said.
Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas of the LP said it remained to be seen whether or not Belmonte would be able to bag the minority leader post.
“I go where SB [Belmonte] goes. But I think there will only be finality on this on the morning of the 25th. A lot of things can still happen,” he said.
With the LP deciding not to join the majority, only the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) remained without an alliance in the 17th Congress.
Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, the UNA president, said: “We have to meet with our allies and reassess our position. It’s difficult to make a decision now.”