PDP-Laban welcomes 5 more ex-LP lawmakers

Mara Cepeda
PDP-Laban welcomes 5 more ex-LP lawmakers
(UPDATED) In defending their departure from LP, Representatives Geraldine Roman and Alfred Vargas say there is 'overwhelming' support for President Rodrigo Duterte in their respective districts

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Liberal Party (LP) is now down to 27 members in the House after 5 of its members were sworn into the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

The following LP members took their oath before PDP-Laban secretary-general and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday, May 10:

  • Ansaruddin Adiong, Lanao del Sur 1st District
  • Winston Castelo, Quezon City 2nd District
  • Geraldine Roman, Bataan 1st District
  • Nancy Catamco, North Cotabato 2nd District
  • Alfred Vargas, Quezon City 5th District 

Twenty-two of the remaining LP legislators signed a coalition agreement with PDP-Laban, while the other 5 are part of the opposition bloc. 

Aside from Adiong, Castelo, Roman, Catamco, and Vargas, 5 other legislators also jumped ship to PDP-Laban:

  • Rodolfo Albano III, Isabela 1st District
  • Abdulmunir Arbison, Sulu 2nd District 
  • Scott Davies Lanete, Masbate 3rd District
  • Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Camiguin
  • Divina Grace Yu, Zamboanga del Sur 1st District 

Romualdo used to be from LP, but he transferred to Lakas-CMD in February.  

Albano and Arbison were from the Nacionalista Party, while Lanete and Yu once belonged to the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

PDP-Laban now has 121 members out of the 293 lawmakers in the House.

The LP was a thriving party when its chairman Benigno Aquino III was president. Most of its members joined PDP-Laban, however, after President Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 polls. (READ: The Liberal Party and realpolitik in the House)

The departure of the 5 ex-LP lawmakers comes at a crucial time for the party, with two impeachment complaints looming against Vice President Leni Robredo, the party chairperson. 

Two groups – the tandem of Marcos loyalists Oliver Lozano and Melchor Chavez as well as the Impeach Leni Movement – are currently looking for a lawmaker who will endorse their impeachment complaints against Robredo. So far, no legislator has agreed to endorse any of the two complaints.

Any Filipino citizen may initiate impeachment proceedings against a public official, but the complaint must be endorsed by a lawmaker for it to be officially filed in the House. (READ: FAST FACTS: How does impeachment work?

Former LP members Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte and Councilor Gian Sotto also joined PDP-Laban on Wednesday afternoon. They took their oath before Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who is also PDP-Laban president.

Belmonte is the daughter of LP stalwart and Quezon City 4th District Representative Feliciano Belmonte Jr and the cousin of Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, the party’s secretary-general.

Kit Belmonte said both his cousin and Sotto informed the LP of their departure. Sotto is the son of Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

Politics is local

Their respective constituencies was a factor in the departure of the 5 lawmakers from LP. 

According to Vargas, there is “overwhelming” support for Duterte in his district.

“We want to support this administration and we want it to succeed. And with our consultations with our constituents, talagang overwhelming naman ang support sa administration na ito (the support for this administration is really overwhelming). I would like to be their voice here in Congress and support the legislative agenda of our President and our Speaker,” he said. 

Roman shared the same sentiments.

“Aside from my vision for the entire country, which I share with the President because we have a shared vision, he has very good intentions, I also look after the welfare of my district,” she said.  

“My message as a member of the LP before is that I want to help the President and this administration to succeed because the success of the President and this administration is the success of the entire nation. And the failure of this President and this administration is the failure of the entire nation. And our country cannot afford to fail,” added Roman. 

Roman, Vargas, Adiong, and Catamco all informed the LP leadership of their plan to jump ship. Castelo, however, said he has not yet informed his former party mates. 

“It’s [a] work in progress. I only make paalam (ask permission) to my wife because she’s the speaker of the house,” said Castelo with a laugh.

He added that he joined PDP-Laban because he wanted to be “part of this historic journey in transforming our country, the Philippines, into a great one.”

“And we are all bound now to realize it and the legal way that we could do to realize our common objective is to support the legislative agenda of the President and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. And so we have to sacrifice our party in order to achieve this common purpose,” said Castelo. 

‘Like losing a brother, sister’

Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo, the highest ranking LP member in the House, likened the departure of his colleagues to losing a relative.  

“Of course, it’s disappointing each time a party member leaves the party. It’s painful especially as we now consider each other as family. It’s like losing a brother or a sister,” said the Marikina 2nd District representative in a statement. 

“It’s doubly more painful considering that those [who] have remained, including those [who] are leaving this afternoon, have been through a lot of trials already. Despite the difficulty of their situation, they decided to stay with the party. So that’s why it’s painful,” he added. 

Still, Quimbo said the LP has no choice but to understand the decision of the lawmakers, who considered their respective districts and the upcoming 2019 polls. 

“They’ve been convinced that the best way to get reelected is by joining the majority party. These are political realities that face many leaders,” said Quimbo.

Roman said she was not expecting the LP leadership to get hurt. 

“Siyempre (Of course) goodbyes are always sad. ‘Di ko naman alam na masasaktan sila. Ako rin naman siyempre may konting kalungkutan (I didn’t know they would be hurt. I am a bit sad too). And I thank them for wishing me all the best,” said Roman.

Quimbo then thanked the 26 other lawmakers who chose to stay with the LP.

“While I seek to understand those [who] leave the party, I continue to give deep respect to those [who] have stayed. Despite the difficult circumstances faced by our party members, as far as being a much smaller party today than what it used to be, they have chosen to remain with the party,” he said. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.