LP to join majority bloc; Belmonte gives up Speaker bid
Former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and the Liberal Party have scuttled their plan to lead the opposition in the 17th Congress and instead will join the allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in the majority coalition.
Belmonte confirmed the news in a text message to the Inquirer on Saturday.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas earlier told the Inquirer that he received a phone call from Belmonte requesting a meeting with incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to sign a majority coalition agreement between the LP and Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) on Sunday or a day before the opening of the 17th Congress.
“SB (Sonny Belmonte) just called me to say that he is not running for Speaker and the LP will join the majority,” said Fariñas.
The battle for Speaker has long been settled with PDP-Laban poaching LP’s ranks to build its roster from three elected members in the May 9 elections to 100 just days before the July 25 opening.
LP has been reduced to 30 members and roughly 10 allies from party-list groups led by Akbayan. This would have been enough to make Belmonte the minority leader as the second highest vote-getter in the race for Speaker automatically gets the post.
But the emergence of Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez of United Nationalist Alliance as a serious contender in the minority leader race has apparently moved Belmonte and LP to think twice about their plan not to join the majority coalition which includes the Nationalist People’ Coalition, National Unity Party, Nacionalista Party and the party-list bloc.
Belmonte threw in the towel apparently after confirming reports that Alvarez had met with Suarez and former Vice President Jejomar Binay to discuss strategies to clinch the race for minority leader.
In a statement, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of the LP claimed that Alvarez had agreed to deploy 50 House members from PDP-Laban and its allies to back Suarez in the race for minority leader.
Suarez recalled that in the 16th Congress, the then-dominant LP also used its excess numbers to influence the race for minority leader by supporting one of its allies, San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, to win over Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez of Lakas.
Much earlier, Franklin Drilon and other LP members in the Senate already junked the opposition role expected of the former ruling party led by Duterte’s rival, Mar Roxas, and joined the majority coalition led by PDP-Laban’s Aquilino Pimentel III.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo of LP said :”This will show LP’s unequivocal support to the Duterte administration who had a strong mandate from the electorate and recently garnered the highest acceptance rating.”
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