House divided: Lagman bares ‘sinister plot’
LIBERAL Party (LP) member and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman has accused incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and former Vice President Jejomar Binay of hatching a “sinister plot” to control the minority bloc in the 17th Congress.
According to Lagman, Alvarez and Binay met with Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, who was being groomed to lead the minority bloc.
“Alvarez told Binay that he was ‘comfortable’ with Suarez as minority leader and assured [him of] Suarez’s victory,” Lagman said in a statement. Both Binay and Suarez are members of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).
Alvarez confirmed meeting with Binay and Suarez, but denied Lagman’s claims about UNA’s plan to frustrate the bid of LP member and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr.’s to take the minority plum.
“Yes, I talked to [the former] VP but I never said any of the things [Lagman] was claiming,” Alvarez said. “It’s really hard to believe people who talk about what went on in a meeting where they weren’t even present,” he added.
Alvarez said he had given the LP until Monday morning, before the 17th Congress opens, to decide whether to join the majority bloc or take the minority post.
Under House rules, whoever gets the second highest number of votes in the speakership race automatically bags the minority post.
Lagman said he was puzzled as to why Suarez was “cocksure” of winning the minority post with only “three remaining UNA representatives, including himself.”
“The supermajority’s choosing [of] the minority leader is a retrogression to unscrupulous partisan politics and a subversion of authentic change,” Lagman said.
The Albay representative also appealed to President Duterte to “scuttle this unholy alliance between his political leaders and Suarez because it defies his exhortation for genuine change.”
Alvarez countered that Lagman should just wait for the voting results before making any accusation, adding that members of the LP “must be afraid of their own ghosts.” He was referring to how the LP controlled both the majority and minority posts in the 16th Congress.
UNA president and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, meanwhile, clarified that UNA has four, not three, members as Lagman claims. Aside from himself, Suarez, Louis Campos and Monsour del Rosario are the UNA members. Tiangco said UNA also had five allies from party-list groups: Lito Atienza, Delphine Lee, Orestes Salon, Anna Marie Villaraza and Harry Roque.
Suarez said he also expected some “disgruntled LP members” to dump Belmonte and vote for him for the speakership.
Or it could be the other way around, said Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas. “As it happened in the last Congress, some of those in the majority might be tempted to join the fray for minority leader to make [the race] more interesting,” Fariñas said, referring to San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora’s victory over former Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, who was president of Lakas. Zamora’s party, the Nacionalista Party, was a member of the LP-led majority coalition in the 16th Congress.
LP’s numbers have dropped from 116 to 30, with most members flocking to PDP-Laban, while PDP-Laban’s roster has grown from three to 100, Alvarez said.
PDP-Laban’s majority coalition with the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Lakas-NUCD, the NP, the National Unity Party, and the party-list bloc was in excess of 200 members, he added. TVJ