Makabayan bloc leaves House majority

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Seven party-list representatives belonging to the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives on Thursday, September 14, announced they were leaving the majority bloc.

"Today, we, 7 party-list representatives of the Makabayan bloc, declare our separation from the majority coalition in the House of Representatives to intensify our opposition to the Duterte administration that has now fully unraveled as a fascist, pro-imperialist, and anti-people regime," the bloc said in a statement on Thursday, ahead of a press conference.

The following legislators belong to the Makabayan bloc:

Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas told Tinio in a text message: "I accept and respect your decision with a heavy heart." Tinio informed Fariñas through text message of their decision ahead of the press conference.

The majority bloc is composed mostly of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) members and several other political parties which inked deals with the ruling party.

'Independent bloc'

The coalition of 7 will now form an "independent bloc" in the House of Representatives. They won't be the only one.

The House is composed of the "supermajority," the majority-recognized minority bloc, the "independent minority" bloc, and now, the "independent" Makabayan bloc.

During his candidacy, President Rodrigo Duterte declared himself the only leftist and socialist presidential candidate. Early on, he promised peace talks with communists and allowed the National Democratic Front (NDF) to nominate possible appointees to key Cabinet positions.

Makabayan, in their statement, said it was this promise that prompted them to join the PDP-Laban-led majority coalition "consistent with [their] stand to support the promise of change of President Duterte."

"Back then, we were encouraged by his reformist and populist actions and pronouncements on a range of issues, including: resuming the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), releasing political prisoners, ending neocolonial ties with the US and pursuing an independent foreign policy, addressing the roots of the Moro rebellion, ending labor contractualization, increasing government support to farmers, putting a stop to destructive mining practices, reducing income taxes of rank and file employees, and increasing social pensions, and prioritizing basic social services over infrastructure," the bloc said.

Its alliance with the majority was also "premised on the condition" that they would still challenge the administration's position on Duterte's "neoliberal economic policies, his disdain for human rights especially in his war on drugs, anti-crime and counterinsurgency campaigns, his rehabilitation of the former dictator Marcos, and his propensity for strongman rule."

That relationship has turned shaky since then, with the souring of peace talks and the rejection of two left-leaning nominees by the Commission on Appointments – Judy Taguiwalo as social welfare secretary and Rafael Mariano as agrarian reform secretary.

The Makabayan bloc scored Duterte for apparently failing to fulfill promises made at the beginning of his term.

The bloc said in its statement:

The peace negotiations with the NDFP have been practically terminated due to Duterte's insistence of a bilateral ceasefire agreement prior to any talks. With Marawi being bombed to the ground and its resulting humanitarian crisis, the Moro peace process is spiraling downward. Under these circumstances, martial law threatens to turn Mindanao into an even more violent land of strife and lost promises.

President Duterte has turned back on his promise to "separate" from the US, even as he has allowed China to continue occupying the West Philippine Sea. His "independent foreign policy" has turned out to be a farce. He is now as dependent as ever on the US for national security and has practically abandoned our valid and internationally-recognized claims of sovereignty and territory in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for China's promises of aid and investments.

President Duterte's little concessions to farmers, workers, and the urban poor have been reduced to populist posturing in the face of his overwhelmingly neoliberal economic policies that favor the oligarchs and foreign powers he claims to disdain.

Worst of all, his "war on drugs" has turned into a campaign of mass murder of the poor, for which he shows no signs of turning back.

As representatives of the poor and marginalized sectors in Congress and as nationalist and progressive legislators, it would be a violation of our duties and principles to remain with a majority that enables and defends the fascist, pro-imperialist, and anti-people policies of the Duterte regime.

Malacañang said it has taken "due notice of the decision" of the Makabayan bloc.

"We were hopeful that they would remain open to working together with the administration, particularly on pro-poor, pro-people issues," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement. – Rappler.com