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Belmonte withdraws from minority race

/ 08:48 PM July 23, 2016
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Speaker Sonny Belmonte. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Outgoing Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Saturday said he is withdrawing from the minority race for the Liberal Party to join President Rodrigo Duterte’s coalition for change.

In a text message to INQUIRER.net, the Quezon City representative said he withdrew in compliance with former President Benigno Aquino III’s request for the Liberal Party to join the majority coalition led by Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

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“Yes, reiterates the original decision made in consultation with then president PNoy (Aquino),” Belmonte said.

Belmonte originally wanted to retain his post as Speaker but conceded to presumptive Speaker Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez amid an exodus of Liberals jumping ship to the PDP-Laban.

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This prompted Belmonte to eventually seek the minority leader post, which goes to the second-placer candidate for Speaker.

READ: Belmonte eyes minority post

The minority leader would lead the small group of solons who did not vote for the winning Speaker.

Talks between the Liberal Party and PDP-Laban initially broke down supposedly because Alvarez wanted the Liberals to join the PDP-Laban instead, drastically reducing the size of the once powerful administration party.

But Belmonte said Alvarez’s party agreed not to diminish further the clout of the Liberal Party, which has drastically reduced its size from 116 to at least 30 members.

“Current membership of Liberal Party is mga 30 plus,” Belmonte said.

The withdrawal of Belmonte then leaves the minority race between Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, who supposedly would be supported even by some members of the majority in order for the minority to be a “cooperative” bloc in Congress.

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READ: Suarez to challenge Belmonte for ‘crumbs’ | Tiangco, Suarez vie for House minority leader

But it seems the post would be handily won by Suarez, after TIangco said he would also be withdrawing from the minority race.

Tiangco said that Alvarez met with former vice president Jejomar Binay and said the presumptive Speaker would prefer Suarez to lead the minority bloc, even suggesting to lend some members of the majority coalition to give the numbers for Suarez to win.

Tiangco confirmed a supposed sinister plot for the majority to lend some of its members to give Suarez the numbers to clinch the second top post.

READ: House divided: Lagman bares ‘sinister plot’

“During the meeting of Speaker Alvarez, Danny Suarez and VP Binay, Speaker Alvarez told VP that he prefers Danny Suarez as minority leader and that they will give Suarez the votes needed to beat Sonny Belmonte,” Tiangco said in a text message to INQUIRER.net.

Tiangco is a stalwart of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Binay’s political party. Suarez is also a member of UNA.

“So even if I beat Suarez within UNA, the same will still happen. Speaker Alvarez will still give him the needed votes from the majority, to be minority leader,” he added.

Tiangco said it was unacceptable for Alvarez as the presumptive Speaker to have a say on who would be the minority leader, generally seen as a figure in leading an opposition in Congress.

“Being cooperative is not a problem. But for the Speaker to insist on the minority leader he wants is unacceptable,” Tiangco said.

He said the four members of UNA would be voting individually based on principles and not as a bloc in the 17th Congress.

It was Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman who first exposed the plot to put Suarez as minority leader to lead a cooperative and “co-opted” minority bloc.

READ: Lagman warns of ‘co-opted’ minority bloc

“More than the ascendancy of a supermajority in the House of Representatives, what is seriously alarming is a possible emergence of a co-opted minority, a ‘company union’ established and supported by the majority,” Lagman said in a previous statement.

“The constitutional precept of ‘checks and balances’ must not be sacrificed at the unholy altar of partisanship and expediency,” Lagman added.

Lagman and Suarez had been at odds in the 15th Congress when Lagman accused the former president now Pampanga representative Gloria Arroyo of being behind an ouster move against him to install Suarez as minority leader.

Lagman and Suarez were in a term-sharing agreement in leading the minority before the start of the 15th Congress.

Amid the scuffle for minority leadership with Suarez, Lagman in 2012 resigned as minority leader and chairman of Arroyo’s Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrat. He jumped ship to the Liberal Party. TVJ

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TAGS: Belmonte, Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Liberal Party, Minority Race, PDP-Laban, Rodrigo Duterte, Speaker Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez
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