MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said on Tuesday, May 31, that there remained a “sizeable” number of Liberal Party (LP) congressmen supporting him as he pursues his speakership bid against the incoming administration’s choice, newly-elected Davao del Norte First District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez.
Belmonte made the statement amid the claim of Alvarez that a huge chunk of the LP membership in the House would like to join the new majority bloc. Alvarez had also claimed that “no less than 50” LP members have already jumped ship to his party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Belmonte said on Tuesday there are still a good number of LP members who remain “steadfast to the party.”
“Most of those who are still here would like to transfer to the majority. What you are [asking], if I have an idea how many [LP members] are remaining? I’d like to keep that as a trade secret in the meantime,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Belmonte has already conceded the speakership to Alvarez, but said he would run against him anyway to get the position of House minority leader.
“I am more inclined to be there [as minority leader]. Ano naman ang magiging stance ko (What will be my stance)? Ako (Me), I would be very cooperative, giving the new president all the chances of making good on what he is saying. Basta (for as long as) within constitutional limits, 100% ang backing ko (I will back him 100%),” he said.
LP in House: Majority, minority or both?
Asked if LP will be in the minority or the majority, Belmonte said that there will be members in both blocs, just like members of the Lakas-Christiam Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) under his leadership.
“The bulk which wants to be part of the majority and still remain Liberals there, they are the LP. Those in the [minority] will be the independent LP or something,” he said.
Alvarez earlier said that he wished LP members coalescing with the new majority bloc would join PDP-Laban, which won 3 only congressional seats in the May 9 elections.
The LP won 115 seats, followed by the second biggest political party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), with 42 seats.
Belmonte said President Benigno Aquino III, the LP chairman, would like the LP members to stay with the party even if they forge alliances with PDP-Laban.
“He (Aquino) saw that the majority of the LP want to be part of the majority. Mas gusto niya (he prefers) they go in there as a group. The same as NPC (Nationalist People’s Coalition) has entered as a group….’Yan ang gusto niya (That’s what he wants) instead of being eaten up by the party of the [incoming] president.” (READ: LP lawmakers told: Support PDP-Laban, but stay with party)
The National Unity Party, formerly Kampi, has reunited with Lakas-CMD and is also set to seal a coalition agreement with PDP-Laban. The coalition of party-list groups have also pledged support for Alvarez.
Several lawmakers, such as incumbent Minority Leader and San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora, Negros Occidental Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez, Misamis Oriental First Representative Peter Unabia, Davao City Second Representative Mylene Albano, and newly-elected Sarangani Representative Rogelio Pacquiao, have joined PDP-Laban. – Rappler.com