ASEANEWS HEADLINE: MANILA – House in showdown this week on minority


House Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo, picked as minority leader by the 12 lawmakers who abstained in last week’s vote to oust former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and install Arroyo, expects the new leadership to acknowledge them based on House rules.



MANILA, Philippines — A showdown is expected this week at the House of Representatives on which group should be recognized as the minority and who would be its leader following the installation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Speaker.

House Deputy Speaker Romero Quimbo, picked as minority leader by the 12 lawmakers who abstained in last week’s vote to oust former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and install Arroyo, expects the new leadership to acknowledge them based on House rules.

“But at the end of the day, it’s going to be the Speaker’s call. Whatever we do, whoever the Speaker chooses, wins,” he said over One News channel’s “The Chiefs” before the weekend.


Three other groups are also laying claim to the minority bloc – among them the incumbent Minority Leader Danilo Suarez who is a loyal ally of Arroyo, the group of Alvarez and former House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and the Makabayan bloc led by Rep. Antonio Tinio of party-list Alliance of Concerned Teachers.

Quimbo’s group is composed mostly of Liberal Party members belonging to the opposition faction in the House that includes Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, titular head of the so-called Magnificent 7. The Quimbo-Lagman merger is allied with Vice President Leni Robredo and former president Benigno Aquino III who sits as chairman of the once powerful LP.

House Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya Jr., Arroyo’s former budget secretary who had been presiding over sessions, said they would have wanted to settle the impasse last week but had “to hold it in abeyance and proceed” this week.

He added that Fariñas has been “effectively removed” as majority leader following their designation of House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro of Capiz as “interim” replacement.

Lagman, also an ally of Arroyo who shielded her in four impeachment complaints, argued that Suarez can no longer claim to be the House’s opposition leader on the basis that he initiated and, worse, even voted for Arroyo as Speaker.

“It is foolhardy for Suarez and his group to insist that in the recent House upheaval there was a mere change in the position of Speaker and the rest of the major positions, including that of the minority leader, remain the same,” he said, explaining that “any change in the leadership of a legislative assembly, like the House, necessarily results in changes in the composition of the majority and minority in the chamber.”

“This is inevitable because a change in leadership automatically carries with it the shifting of alliances and loyalties. The change in the speakership did not happen in a vacuum,” Lagman added in a statement.

Quimbo, who guested in The Chiefs with party-list Reps. Tinio of ACT and Gary Alejano of Magdalo, said he, along with 11 of his colleagues who abstained from voting during Monday’s election of Arroyo as new Speaker and three others who voted against, now constitute the new minority.

He threatened to go to court if the Arroyo-led majority decides to retain Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez as minority leader.

It would be “comical” given that Suarez is a close friend of Arroyo, he added.

While Quimbo and most LP congressmen were part of the majority under Alvarez, Lagman’s Magnificent 7 was the genuine opposition. Makabayan initially collaborated with the Duterte administration but later became one of its critics. Its seven lawmakers deserted the majority and became independents.

Tinio and Alejano said they would not join a minority that includes Alvarez and other Duterte allies and which will not criticize administration policies.

They said they want the minority to be a real opposition to Duterte. Alejano filed the first impeachment case against the President that was dismissed by the latter’s allies.

The Suarez group welcomed Quimbo’s threat to go to court on the minority leadership issue.

“They should do that. But as of now, there is a Supreme Court ruling that says we are the minority,” Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. of party-list Ako Bicol said, referring to the decision on the petition of the Lagman group questioning Suarez’s election in 2016 as minority leader.

Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, a senior deputy minority leader, said Quimbo and the others should just join the minority.

“But they cannot join us and say they are the leader,” he said.

With all these points, Andaya gave assurance that the House majority will not interfere in the squabble among lawmakers in the minority bloc, saying the opposition legislators should settle the issue among themselves.

Quimbo also challenged Arroyo to prove her long-time, most virulent critics wrong.

He said: “The House is confronted with a fork on the road: is the president (GMA) going to be the leader that former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was? Or is she going to use this opportunity to show true leadership? Meaning—recognizing and engendering a true minority. I think the bigger challenge today is being faced by the new Speaker. Is she going to allow the same kind of leadership? The same things that she’s always been accused of?”

The lawmaker, who also served as Pag-IBIG Fund administrator when Arroyo was the sitting president, revealed that they knew of a change in House leadership the night before President Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address.

He stressed that he thumbed down requests for them to endorse Arroyo as Speaker.

“We’re (LP members save for four who voted for Arroyo) 100 percent for change in leadership. Yes, absolutely we know it just like everyone else. But no, I said ‘no we’re not supporting GMA’,” he told The Chiefs. “It was only because internally, this is now our chance to be together finally under one umbrella.”

One of the LP stalwarts who allied with Alvarez and maintained alliance with Arroyo is former speaker and now Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

For his part, Alejano said their group (Magnificent 7) would definitely not join Alvarez to form a minority group—a position also supported by Tinio.

“We are the real and true opposition,” Tinio stressed.

Meanwhile, Quimbo also told The Chiefs that Alvarez wanted to impeach Robredo last year.

“That’s a blatant Lie!” Alvarez said in a text message using the capital letter L when reached for comment.

In March 2017, the late Marcos loyalist lawyer Oliver Lozano filed an impeachment complaint against Robredo for her criticism of President Duterte’s bloody anti-drug war. He left his petition with Alvarez’s office.

Days later, before any of his House allies could endorse the complaint, Duterte said in an interview, “Guys, lay off. Stop it.” Without an endorser, an impeachment petition is considered a piece of garbage.

Some Alvarez loyalists in the House had told reporters privately that they could have mustered the needed votes to impeach Robredo had Duterte given them the go-signal.

Quimbo’s interviewers also raised the possibility that administration allies could still move against the vice president through an impeachment or a quo warranto petition, similar to the one filed against ousted Supreme Court chief Maria Lourdes Sereno, now that she has declared her readiness to lead a unified political opposition.

To protect Robredo, Quimbo said he and most of his LP colleagues chose to join the majority led by the ousted speaker.

“She could easily be impeached with just 99 votes. As far as LP is concerned, we have to make sure that she stays in office,” he stressed.

But the biggest threat to the Vice President, he said, is still the election protest filed by defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – With Jess Diaz

.Jess DiazDelon Porcalla (The Philippine Star)


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