MANILA, Philippines – A coalition of party-list representatives – composed of 37 incoming and returning lawmakers – announced on Wednesday, May 25, its support for the speakership bid of newly-elected Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez.
Alvarez, himself a returning congressman, is the preferred by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to lead the House of Representatives in the 17th Congress.
In Negros Occidental, the former Liberal Party provincial chairman who resigned to support presidential bet Grace Poe, is now with Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP–Laban).
Reelected 3rd District Representative Alfredo Abelardo Benitez said on Wednesday that he was sworn into the party on Tuesday, May 24.
3rd-term Ako Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe said the major reason they agreed to support Alvarez is his commitment to grant “fair” allocation of committee chairmanships and memberships.
“[This is for ] the welfare of the party-list representatives…. He recognizes the equitable distribution principle,” Batocabe said. “Ang nangyayari [dati] binibigay sa party-list ‘yung pinagpipilian ng mga [political] parties.”
(The practice has been to give party-list representatives that crumbs from [district representatives from] political parties.)
Key committees eyed
Among the key committees that party-list representatives seek representation are the commission on appointments, the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, committee on rules. They also want the vice chairmanship of the committee on appropriations. They are also seek to grab the post of Senior Deputy Majority Leader.
Batocabe, who is vying to be the coalition president for 2016-2019, said that they are also pushing to get the Deputy Speaker post.
“It is symbolic for party-list [representatives] to have a deputy speaker. Other parties have a deputy speaker when in fact [party-list nominees] comprise 20% of the [House membership],” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Currently, only big and influential political parties have a Deputy Speaker.
Alvarez, for his part, affirmed the commitment he made to the new coalition who pledged him their support.
“Mapag-uusapan ‘yan, kailangan equitable ang distribution,” he told reporters after the signing of their deal with the coalition. (That can be discussed. The distribution [of committee seats] has to be equitable.)
Stronger ‘coalition for change’
Alvarez also disclosed that the Makabayan bloc, the the left wing of the party-list groups, will sign an agreement to join the majority next week.
Big political blocs – the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the Nacionalista Party, and Lakas-CMD – earlier signed coalition agreements with PDP-Laban.
Lakas of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reunited with ex-ally National Unity Party (formerly called Kampi) after it signed the coalition deal with PDP-Laban. NUP has yet to finalize their agreement with the incoming ruling party.
Negros Occidental’s Benitez, the 4th richest congressman in the country, said, “The mandate has been given to Duterte so I think it is about time that we join forces to help in the nation building.”
Even the Visayan bloc, which Benitez heads in the House, has committed its support to Duterte and the speakership bid of Alvarez. The 30 members, most of them belonging to the Liberal Party, signed a manifesto of support last week.
Benitez said that more LP members are expected to join PDP-Laban next week.
He said that he had a chance to talk with Duterte recently: “It’s more on helping the country’s needs including those they feel is necessary, especially his advocacy during the campaign which is peace and order.”
He said lawmakers are studying the shift to federalism, which Duterte is pushing. It will be first on the agenda when the Congress reconvenes, he said. “I think we are open to discussing the points of federalism on what form and what process we are going to adopt.”
Asked if the support of Negros Occidental politicians for Manuel Roxas II and Grace Poe would have repercussions under the Duterte administration, Alvarez said: “He (Duterte) is the type who thinks [politicking] is over after elections. Even here in Negros, we look at the election as just one day and after that we roll up our sleeves and get to work.” – with a report from Marchel Espina/Rappler.com