'Race for House minority leadership still fluid'
MANILA, Philippines – Anything can still happen as far the race for the leadership of the minority in the House of Representatives is concerned.
While Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr appears all set to retain his post, Leyte Rep Martin Romualdez, who is being fielded by Lakas as House minority leader, said Wednesday, June 26, the race between him and San Juan Rep Ronaldo Zamora for the post is still "very fluid."
"If you speak in the majority bloc or those in the majority coalition, they are still awaiting commitments from the Speaker and chairmanships," Romualdez said.
The candidate for Speaker who gets the 2nd highest number of votes automatically gets the House minority leadership post.
But Romualdez said Lakas cannot yet predict the exact number of congressmen that will be supporting his bid as of Wednesday.
Outgoing Minority Leader Danilo Suarez (Lakas, Quezon) earlier revealed that Romualdez had been in talks with Vice President Jejomar Binay regarding a possible coalition in the House minority bloc.
But it appears the talks didn't prosper. UNA secretary-general Toby Tiangco said Wednesday that 9 out of 11 United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) members in the House have decided to join the majority bloc.
With UNA now out of the picture, both sides have set their sights on party-list representatives, particularly the 7 from the Makabayan bloc, which Suarez earlier said could provide the swing votes for the House leadership.
Both Zamora and Romualdez have approached the Makabayan bloc. Gabriela Rep Luzviminda Ilagan told reporters the bloc has yet to decide because "there are new members who still have to be oriented about procedures in the House."
What would be the difference between Zamora and Romualdez?
For Romualdez, it's all about the party they represent. Romualdez claims Lakas is the "representative of the true minority opposition."
"In fact, we're not too sure what the party affiliation of congressman Zamora would be," Romualdez said.
Zamora ran under the local party Partido Magdiwang in the recent elections. He is a known ally of the Nacionalista Party (NP) – which is in a coalition with the administration.
Romualdez said it would be "inconsistent" for Zamora to get his base support from the NP or the LP and yet represent the minority.
"At least, with us, our position is clearer," Romualdez said.
But Suarez said Lakas is not closing its doors on an alliance with Zamora. "Assuming that the SONA (State of the Nation Address) is near and we have the numbers while he doesn't, Ronny will be with us and vice versa. We will be joining him," Suarez said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In a separate interview, Belmonte said he is looking forward to a united House.
Asked about his expectations from the 16th Congress, Belmonte said, "We expect the 16th to do better than the 15th, particularly in its last year, because we enter another political season. It is even more crucial than the one we have passed through but, definitely, a good working relationship between those who compose the majority and the minority."
"I look forward na one House lang kami," he said. (I look forward that we will just be one House.)
Suarez, however, believes a strong opposition is needed in the House.
"The Senate is already theirs. It won't be nice if the opposition doesn't have a voice in the House," he said. – Rappler.com