‘LP will remain steadfast to principles’ even if in House majority – Belmonte

Mara Cepeda
‘LP will remain steadfast to principles’ even if in House majority – Belmonte
'Maninidigan pa rin tayo,' says Quezon City 6th District Representative Kit Belmonte, Liberal Party secretary-general

MANILA, Philippines – The opposition Liberal Party (LP) said on Thursday, June 27 that it will “remain steadfast to its principles” even if its members join the majority in the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress.

Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, LP secretary-general, made the assurance on Thursday, June 27, a day after another LP stalwart –Caloocan City 2nd District Representative Edgar Erice – said most of the party’s House members were leaning towards joining the majority bloc again

“Rest assured that the Liberal Party will remain steadfast to its principles regardless of who wields the Speaker’s gavel. We will continue to push for genuine democracy in the House: One that recognizes and encourages different opinions; that does not punish dissent; and that allows for a true people’s minority,” said Belmonte.

“This will hold true even as we deal with the specific context and landscape of the House of Representatives. Maninindigan pa rin tayo (We will stand by our convictions),” he added.

Belmonte said the 18 LP lawmakers will “endeavor to vote as one” once the House elects the new Speaker on July 22. (READ: ‘Expect tyranny’ in House with only 18 elected LP representatives – Kit Belmonte

A party insider explained to Rappler that joining the majority bloc would not necessarily stop LP lawmakers from becoming the “true people’s minority” – or would not deter them from thumbing down priority bills of President Rodrigo Duterte that the LP has been opposed to.

“Sasabihin kasi nila na ang minority ‘yung bloc na hindi boboto sa mananalong Speaker. Pero kahit naman sino ang manalong Speaker, pare-pareho silang boboto sa death penalty e. Pare-pareho silang boboto sa lowering the minimum of age criminal responsibility,” said the party insider. 

(Some would say the only ones forming the minority bloc are the ones who will not vote for the winning candidate for Speaker. But regardless of who will win as Speaker, lawmakers would still vote in favor of the the death penalty anyway. They would all still vote yes to lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibiltiy.) 

“Dapat ang pagka-minority naka-base sa posisyon sa key issues, hindi sa kung sino ang ibinoto mo sa speakership. In that sense, regardless of our position sa speakership, we will remain steadfast pagdating sa key issues,” the source added.

(Being in the minority should be based on your position on key issues, not on whom you voted for in the speakership race. In that sense, regardless of our position in the speakership, we will remain steadfast when it comes to key issues.) 

Perks of the majority bloc

But why would an opposition party – one that has long been vilified by both Duterte and his supporters – even want to belong to the majority bloc? 

It all boils down to the unique dynamics in the House. (READ: Being ‘dilawan’ in the Duterte-controlled House)

A majority member has more bargaining power to negotiate for higher budget to fund necessary projects in his or her district. A majority lawmaker also has higher chances of getting leadership positions like committee chairmanships.

In the 17th Congress, most of the LP lawmakers were part of the supermajority bloc at the start of Duterte’s term, while only 5 of them decided to join the independent minority bloc. 

As independent minority lawmakers, this small group of LP legislators were not entitled to any leadership positions nor were they allowed to vote for the passage of bills at the committee level. At most, they were able to verbally oppose controversial bills but virtually had no power to stop them from being passed in the House.  

LP later tried but failed to lay claim over the minority bloc – which has more privileges than independent minority legislators – after the House coup that saw the rise of former president turned Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as Speaker. – 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.