MANILA, Philippines – Two days before the 17th Congress opens, Liberal Party (LP) member and outgoing House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr decided to drop his bid for the House minority leadership.
“SB (Belmonte) has decided that he will no longer run for minority leader because he decided to set aside his personal desire to lead the opposition, if only to put the interest of the majority of the members ahead of his,” said Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo in a phone interview on Saturday, July 23.
He said the LP, which has about 30 to 35 members, will sign a coalition agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to join the supermajority bloc.
“It is also in consonance with the sentiment of PNoy (former president Benigno Aquino III) to join the majority which he intimated to us two months ago after the elections,” Quimbo said.
Rappler has been trying to reach Belmonte for comment but he has not responded as of posting time.
Aside from Quimbo, two other LP members confirmed Belmonte’s decision: Albay Representative Edcel Lagman and Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr.
PDP-Laban member and Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rudy Fariñas, who was part of a meeting with Belmonte on Saturday evening, said, “Yes, magma-majority sila. Tumawag sa akin [si Belmonte] and I’m here in his house now. Marami pa kaming pag-uusapan.” Fariñas is expected to be the next House majority leader.
(Yes, they’ll join the majority. Belmonte called me and I’m here in his house now. We still have a lot to talk about.)
On July 19, Belmonte said LP is going to fight to lead the House minority bloc, with himself gunning for the minority leadership.
Four days later, he changed his mind, with no other LP member deciding to take his place. Fariñas previously said LP had been “vacillating” on whether to join the majority or the minority.
Belmonte’s latest decision signals a divide among the LP members in the House because there are a handful of them who have already decided to join the minority regardless of the party’s stand.
“Even if the decision will be for the LP to join the coalition, there are those like me who will remain as LP [but] as independent minority,” said Lagman, who said around 10 others share his sentiments.
Baguilat is one of them.
“As a matter of principle and personal belief, I think I’m more free to express my positions and do our role as a fiscalizer in the minority,” said Baguilat.