It looks like the House of Representatives, under the administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, is slowly shaping up to be an interesting coalition.
As of Tuesday, Digong’s PDP-Laban increased its size with some big and powerful names from different parties joining its roster. Reps. Ronaldo Zamora and Alfredo Benitez, and incoming Reps. Amado Espino Jr. and Khalid Dimaporo are just a few notable new names in what appears to be the new ruling party.
Others include new PDP-Laban members who were sworn in last Tuesday such as Reps. Ruby Sahali, Peter Unabia, Horacio Suansing of Sultan Kudarat, Jorge Almonte of Misamis Occidental, Mayo Almario of Davao Oriental, Wilter Palma II of Zamboanga Sibugay, Maximo Rodriguez Jr., Rogelio Pacquiao, Jesus Celeste, Mylene Garcia-Albanao, Rodolfo Fariñas, and Rolando Andaya.
Reports noted that while most of these new members came from the Liberal Party, some remaining members are declaring their support for the incoming administration while remaining members of LP. Among them is Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
What remains unclear as of writing, though, is whether Belmonte would join the majority bloc alongside other LP members in a coalition with PDP-Laban, or challenge Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez for the speakership. Belmonte’s imminent loss will translate into a minority leadership. If Belmonte himself concedes that there are still other LP members either joining the majority bloc or completely jumping ship to PDP-Laban, we are about to see a majority-minority dynamic in the House of Representatives that have members with allegiances on both sides of the fence.
Without the defections, the LP has 116 out of 290 members in the 17th Congress, or 40 percent of the Lower Chamber. As the vote of one-thirds of the House of Representatives is needed to impeach a president, the LP would pose a constant threat against Duterte, as well as a viable voting bloc for or against any administration-initiated legislation.
Given the possible numbers, the LP in the House then could significantly block Duterte’s platforms. This is not what the Duterte administration needs. What Duterte’s allies in the House should aim for is a constructive minority that would serve as a loyal opposition, one that poses challenges to the legislative agenda and yet cooperative in seeking out passage to law those measures deemed crucial for the administration.
What the House minority should do is not concern itself too much with its losses in the sought-after committee seats, but serve as a counterbalance in making administration-initiated bills into hardworking laws. The minority should ground, in terms of fiscal responsibility, every welfare-oriented proposal.
Thus, there is a need for a minority leader that has clear sights in how to deliver public service within the government means, and with the knowhow to expand such means. Most importantly, the PDP-Laban should ensure that the minority leader is not interested in any power grab through the impeachment route.
The Duterte administration’s priority in transforming our government, not just in spirit but in form, would also push through with the cooperation of a loyal minority. As federalism is poised to be the centerpiece of the incoming administration’s legislative agenda, a contrarian minority would tend to bog down the initiative anchored by adherence to status quo rather than progressive development.
The same goes for his other proposals such as the reimposition of the death penalty for drug traffickers, the three-child policy, and so on.
Despite the name, the House minority bloc of the 17th Congress has huge roles and responsibilities—none of which is being the official naysayer of the Duterte administration.