The surprise election of former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as Speaker of the House on Monday has left three groups contesting the right to be recognized as the minority bloc, but leftist lawmakers could tip the balance in favor of the opposition Liberal Party.
ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said his leftist Makabayan bloc was interested in the minority leader but said they would work with anyone who would check the Duterte administration.
He also confirmed they are in talks with the Liberal Party, which insisted Wednesday that they should be the recognized minority bloc.
LP secretary general and Quezon City Rep. Christopher Belmonte said the group of Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez was also considered ousted when lawmakers voted for Arroyo as the new Speaker.
“These are the 12 members of LP who abstained from last Monday’s proceedings. We are the duly constituted minority bloc, as stated in the recent jurisprudence, and we are ready to perform the function of providing check and balance in the legislative process,” Belmonte said at a news conference.
Belmonte was referring to Supreme Court ruling affirming the election of Suarez as minority leader in the House.
At the time, the Court dismissed the petition of the group led by Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. seeking to compel the House leadership to recognize them as the legitimate minority.
The group filed the petition in 2016, arguing that Baguilat should be recognized as minority leader because he was the runner-up to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in the speakership race in July last year where Baguilat got eight votes and Suarez getting seven.
Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, who was deputy speaker under Alvarez, said the LP also wrote Arroyo to inform her that they were forming themselves as the minority bloc.
“We have a letter addressed to Speaker Arroyo informing her that we have duly constituted ourselves as the Minority bloc as stated in the House rules. We do not need the consent of the Majority bloc to constitute ourselves as the legitimate House Minority bloc,” Quimbo said.
Quimbo said, “the existence of the Suarez’s so-called minority group has no basis under law.”
“The House Rules clearly state that those who voted for the winning Speaker will constitute the majority bloc. Aside from voting for Speaker Arroyo, the Suarez group did sign the manifesto of support for Speaker Arroyo and even campaigned for her. For the Suarez group to remain a minority bloc is beyond reasonable,” Quimbo said.
Opposition and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman expressed a similar view,
“They have ousted themselves as minority members when they voted for Arroyo as Speaker,” Lagman said.
Lagman also said his group “will remain firmly and fiercely intact irrespective of the outcome of the contest for institutional minority leadership in the wake of the change of command in the House of Representatives.”
Lagman’s group is composed of Representatives Tom Villarin of Akbayan Party-list, Edgar Erice of Caloocan City, Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list, Baguilat, Raul Daza of Northern Samar, and Emmanuel Billones of Capiz.
But Suarez said his group has decided to stay with the House’s minority bloc.
“There was a change of heart...I will maintain my position until the closing of the 17th Congress,” Suarez said. “I am not leaving [the minority bloc] any more.”
Suarez’s statement came after the LP claimed to be the ‘true’ minority bloc.
Suarez said his pronouncement that he would want to join the majority bloc was primarily because of his close ties with Arroyo.
Meanwhile, the Makabayan Bloc in the House said they have been in talks with LP members and the group of Lagman to explore the possibility of forming a genuine opposition.
Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said Alvarez’s group is also reportedly planning to form their own bloc.
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