3-way Minority row looms
Makabayan wants to be new ‘option’ after UNA, Lakas bets
The fight for the minority leadership in the House of Representatives is becoming intense with a third group considering it as an “option,” and lawmakers have declared it is the “race to watch.”
Claiming they are the “real progressive and opposition” bloc, the seven-member Makabayan is considering taking the minority leadership with Bayan Muna Rep.-elect Neri Colmenares as a front runner, according to ACT Teachers Rep.-elect Antonio Tinio.
Tinio, however, admitted they may not be able to muster enough numbers to get the second-highest vote in the speakership race.
Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Lakas-CMD president, and Rep. Ronaldo Zamora of the United Nationalist Alliance have declared their intention to run against incumbent Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
The one who gets the second highest vote in the speakership race is automatically declared and elected the Minority Leader and those who voted for him automatically becomes a member of the minority bloc.
On the other hand, with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. almost certain to retain his post, the members of the majority are now jockeying for the chairmanship of the various committees, according to a House leader who refused to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the matter.
The source said Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Party, was likely to assume the post of Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limcaichong, the chairman of the House committee on appropriations.
Another source said Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, and Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupaz Jr., chairman of the House committee on justice, were both interested in Limcaichong’s position.
“Congressman Sarmiento is the front runner and Congressman Ungab and Tupas may return to their present assignments,” the source said.
House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II would remain in his post, the source said.
Quezon City Rep. Bolet Banal Jr. is eyeing the chairmanship of the committee on accounts, but Belmonte has decided to install Romblon Rep. Eleandro Madron, the source said.
Meanwhile, even the lawmakers belonging to the majority say the election of the leader of the opposition is “the race to watch.”
“Mas makulay ang minority leader fight than the Speaker fight,” Gonzales said.
All eyes are on the opposition United Nationalist Alliance, the Makabayan bloc and the Lakas-CMD in the House as their alliance will decide who becomes the next voice of the opposition at the lower chamber.
Makabayan and UNA were allied with the administration in the 15th Congress, but both groups have yet to decide whether or not to remain with the majority coalition.
UNA, whose president is Vice President Jejomar Binay, is expected to be Binay’s vehicle for the presidency in the 2016 polls.
But UNA fielded nine senatorial candidates with platform of governance critical to the administration and offered a “mas magandang daan” as against President Benigno Aquino III’s “tuwid na daan” in the last mid-term polls.
UNA secretary general and Navotas Rep.-elect Toby Tiangco said the 10 UNA congressmen had yet to discuss and make public their official position.
Sources, however, said that except for Tiangco, the UNA lawmakers had chosen to remain with the majority coalition in deference to Binay, who is still part of President Aquino’s cabinet.
But Tiangco said he would not contest the minority leadership for as long as House Deputy Minority Leader and Leyte Rep.-elect Ferdinand Martin Romualdez was in the running.
“Whatever happens, for as long as Martin is running for the speakership race, I will never run against him,” Tiangco said.
Romualdez, Lakas-CMD president, and returning San Juan Rep.-elect Ronaldo Zamora have openly declared their intention to run against House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who has said he is confident he will retain his post.
Makabayan is also in the period of “discerning things.”
“The discussion is still ongoing, we are weighing our options,” Tinio said.
“But taking the lead in the minority leadership is one of the many options should we decide to leave the majority coalition.”
While UNA remains quiet about their preference to remain with the majority, Gonzales, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, said he could not discount the possibility that UNA would go all out for the opposition.
“Ayokong pangUNAhan ang UNA,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said if Zamora would not contest the speakership and instead backed Belmonte, then the shoo-in would be Romualdez, nephew of Ilocos Norte Rep.-elect Imelda Marcos and ally of former President and Pampanga Rep.-elect Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Marcos was a member of the majority coalition in the 15th Congress, and her son, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., was also a member of the majority in the Senate.
This early, Gonzales has already counted Mrs. Marcos as a member of the minority bloc as she is expected to back Romualdez.
Colmenares said they were in talks with both the Lakas and UNA for the minority leadership. Zamora has allied himself with UNA.
“Yes, it’s true na kinakausap kami nina [outgoing House Minority Leader Danilo] Suarez and Congressman Ronnie,” Colmenares said.
“Kami naman sa Makabayan ay haharap sa kung sinong grupo na humihinging makipag usap sa amin. Pero di pa nag-uusap ang Makabayan para magdesisyon. Baka next week or so.” With Maricel V. Cruz
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