CHANGE is expected to come under the administration of President Duterte. No such change is expected in the way politics is conducted in the House. In fact, it has even gotten worse under newly minted Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez despite his claimed adherence to Duterte’s promise that “change is coming.”
There’s nothing principled or democratic in Alvarez’s wanting to dictate on which group in the House should constitute the minority. It’s the way of conquering Huns. He already had a super majority in the bag so there’s no reason why he still wants to have a hand in the election of the minority leader except to humiliate perceived enemies. It was definitely a political overkill, which has no place in a democratic society.
A more sober and statesmanlike victor wouldn’t have meddled in the selection of the minority leader in the House. Alvarez isn’t one. Instead, he entered into an agreement with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) headed by former Vice President Jejomar Binay to prevent the Liberal Party (LP) from becoming the core of the minority and consequently install Rep. Danilo Suarez (Quezon, Nationalist Union Party) as minority leader.
It’s most heart-rending that supposedly responsible leaders like Binay and former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of the LP were complicit in Alvarez’s scheme to establish a “company union.” It’s unfathomable how Belmonte got to agree to coalesce with the House majority after Alvarez had denigrated the LP in numerous occasions. The once proud Belmonte and the Liberals are now eating humble pie. The LPs could have remained unbending in a principled stand to lead the minority but I guess this was too much to expect of them.
The bright spot in the House is the decision of a small group led by Rep. Raul Daza of Northern Samar and Lagman to field Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao against Suarez. Daza was once LP president, and this makes his stand against Belmonte’s sudden surrender more admirable. Oh yes, Daza was also one of two Speaker Pro-tems in the Eighth Congress when Ramon Mitra was Speaker. The other was Tony Cuenco of Cebu City. That was the time when the post of Deputy Speaker, of which there were as many as eight later on, was still non-existent.
Ah, but I digress. Baguilat won by a plurality of one vote over Suarez but Alvarez might still have his way and get his coveted “company union” in the House. Many of the 21 congressmen who abstained in the election of the Speaker could still join the minority and vote for Suarez in a caucus. By the way, the Minority Leader is not an official of the House or of the Senate. The only officials are those elected in plenary – the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Majority Leader, Sergeant-at-Arms and Secretary-General in the House, and the Senate President, Senate President Pro-tem, Majority Leader, Sergeant-at-Arms and Secretary, in the Senate. The minority leader is elected only by the minority so he’s not an official of the chamber.
Alvarez can still redeem himself if he’ll stop the planned “loaning” of votes to Suarez and allow Baguilat to soldier on as minority leader. Of course, this also means Suarez should stop his dream of becoming the head of a “company union” and recognize the importance of a true fiscalizing group, not a subservient one, in a deliberative body.
The emergence of a “super majority” in the House is nothing to crow about. The PDP-Laban party of President Duterte and Alvarez didn’t achieve anything remarkable in swearing in more than a hundred congressmen into its fold. In fact, this situation has shown how low PDP-Laban has fallen.
This party used to pride itself as the only one in Philippines with an ideology. Originally, all who wanted to join had to undergo a series of seminars to imbibe the party ideology, especially on federalism and cooperativism. It’s no wonder that PDP-Laban, along with Unido, made such a great dint during the trying moments in Philippine history. Many party members, among them Nene Pimentel, Mitra, and Oscar Santos of Quezon, were stalwarts at the Batasan in opposing the excesses of martial law.
Now, PDP-Laban requires no such indoctrination into its ideology. Any Juan and Pedro can join for whatever reason. It’s no longer different from other political parties. I wonder if Nene Pimentel, who founded the Partido Democratiko Pilipino (PDP) before it merged with Laban, can be proud of the present state of his party.