UNA split in Congress? Binay: That’s politics
MANILA, Philippines – They are called the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), but lawmakers belonging to the coalition are going their own ways in Congress.
In the Senate, UNA is forming the new minority under resigned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Yet in the House of Representatives, 10 UNA members are joining the majority to be led by Quezon City Rep Feliciano Belmonte Jr of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).
What does UNA’s founder Vice President Jejomar Binay make of the oddity?
“Those are realities of politics,” Binay said on Friday, June 28, on the sidelines of the oath-taking of UNA senators.
Binay sought to defend his group from criticism of turncoatism after UNA positioned itself as the “constructive opposition” in the elections. Only 3 UNA senators won in the May polls, with the 9 winners coming from the administration coalition Team PNoy.
“Eh unang-una, doon naman sa House, 'yung lagi naming kasama naman ang majority. So hindi naman ito joining LP, joining the majority group. We will still retain our personality as UNA members,” Binay said.
(First of all, in the House, we are always with the majority. So it’s not as if our members are joining the LP. They are joining the majority group. We will still retain our personality as UNA members.)
Among the UNA members in the House joining the majority is Binay’s daughter, Makati 2nd District Rep Mar-Len Abigail Binay. The younger Binay even took her oath of office before Belmonte and is set to become senior deputy majority leader.
The Vice President though pointed out that UNA secretary-general Navotas Rep Tobias “Toby” Tiangco chose to become independent despite the perks members of the majority get.
Sen Gregorio Honasan II also defended UNA.
“Because there is no such thing as responsive political parties in the current situation. Who would ever think the NP (Nacionalista Party) and LP will merge to form a temporary coalition on the eve of the elections? So no political party system exists,” he told Rappler.
That’s why, even as an independent, I welcome the opportunity to join UNA with the prayer and hope it will bring us back to the two-party system: platform- and program-driven.”
Tiangco earlier sought to justify other UNA members’ decision to join the majority.
"We should not be bugging ourselves anymore [on] whether we are in the opposition or the administration. The elections are over. We should be thinking about what's best for our country."
Positioning for 2016?
Binay and Tiangco were among those present in the oath-taking of UNA senators Nancy Binay and Honasan at the Coconut Palace in Pasay City.
Vice President Binay administered the oath of Honasan while Nancy Binay took her oath before Enrile.
UNA’s Senator-elect JV Ejercito will take his oath in San Juan on Saturday, June 29.
Enrile, Ejercito, Binay, and Honasan will form the incoming Senate minority along with Sen Jinggoy Estrada and Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto III. The group has vowed to be critical, holding the Senate majority accountable on issues ranging from legislation to attendance and punctuality.
In a separate interview with Rappler, Enrile’s rival Sen Antonio Trillanes IV questioned the plan of the incoming minority to be “fiscalizers” in Congress.
“They won’t do it because they are really on a fiscalizing mode, that they need to check anomalies in government. No, I won’t buy that. They will use that position to the hilt. They will create noise. They will create some problems for the majority because they need to project for the incoming elections,” Trillanes said.
Binay has openly declared his presidential ambitions for 2016. Sen Estrada is reported to be Binay’s possible running mate.
Binay’s daughter, Senator-elect Nancy Binay, dismissed Trillanes’ criticism.
“Our being critical will come if we feel there is something wrong. But if we feel the administration can help our fellow Filipinos, we will support the program. This is not about 2016. This is just about us doing our job as senators,” Nancy Binay told Rappler.
Honasan said as much. “We have decided to be a cohesive group that will give us more leverage for active and responsible fiscalizing.”
‘New senators should read up’
The oath-taking became a reunion of sorts for UNA, with defeated senatorial bets showing up to support their partymates.
Outgoing Zambales Rep Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay, former Sen Ernesto Maceda, and former Sen Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri attended the ceremony. UNA’s incoming Valenzuela Rep Sherwin Gatchalian was also present in the celebration.
Binay's son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, also took his oath before Supreme Court Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
Vice President Binay said he has full faith in his daughter, now that she is about to enter the Senate.
Prior to winning the polls, Nancy Binay was a personal assistant to her father for 20 years.
“I am telling her to use the lessons she learned, to prove her critics wrong, but I have complete trust in her. She is my eldest daughter. She is one of my smartest children,” the Vice President said.
Sen Binay said Enrile advised her to read up on the Senate rules.
“I am happy because Sen Loren Legarda gave me a copy of the rules 3 weeks ago and slowly, I am reading it,” she said.
Honasan said his younger colleagues must always be guided by public interest.
“If you reduce the job of senators, I go by the advice of the late Sen Raul Roco: Our job is to vote on all issues. He said, 'Just be sure that when you vote, you are guided by your best lights that reflect the highest public interests.'” – Rappler.com