Leftist lawmakers bolt House majority


THE seven-member Makabayan bloc pulled out of the “Super Majority” in the House of Representatives on Thursday, vowing to fight an emerging “new dictatorship” under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The leftist lawmakers told a news conference they would become an “independent bloc,” a decision reached by their National Executive Committee following “numerous disappointing decisions” by the President, such as the scuttling of peace talks with communist rebels.

The bloc is composed of party-list representatives Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Arlene Brosas and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, France Castro and Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers, Sarah Elago of Kabataan, and Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis.

“Despite one disappointment after another, we persisted in the majority in the hope that some socioeconomic and political reforms could be achieved,” the bloc said.

The bloc had secured two important legislative victories as part of the House majority – the P2,000 increase in social security pensions and free tuition in state universities in colleges.

But the lawmakers said they had to bolt the ruling coalition led by the President’s PDP-Laban party, because of the scuttled peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front, the failure of the Moro peace process, the President’s “farcical” independent foreign policy, and the war on drugs that had become a “campaign of mass murder of the poor.”

On Tuesday, the Makabayan bloc opposed the majority’s bid to defund the Commission on Human Rights, which has been critical of the drug war.

“Now that President Duterte and his allies are embarking on efforts to undermine the very institutions that serve as a check on his Executive powers, now that he is pushing for an insidious revision of the Constitution, now that he has revived his threat to declare martial law nationwide and impose a revolutionary government, we resolve to intensify efforts to defeat the emergence of a new dictatorship,” the bloc said.

“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,” it added.

Deleted from Viber group

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte said he learned of the bloc’s decision through a text message from Tinio.

“I respect and accept your decision with a heavy heart, of course,” Fariñas said in his reply to Tinio.

The members of the Makabayan bloc were promptly deleted from the majority’s group on the popular smartphone messaging app Viber, Casilao said.

The bloc’s decision also came after the rejection of the Cabinet appointments of activists Judy Taguiwalo (social welfare) and Rafael Mariano (agrarian reform), a former Anakpawis representative, by the powerful Commission on Appointments.

The President had claimed that conditional cash transfers of the Social Welfare department under Taguiwalo were used to buy guns and ammunition for rebels.

Mariano was accused in the appointments body of conniving with communist rebels in attacks on banana exporter Lapanday Foods Corp. early this year.

Members of the bloc could not say whether their former colleagues Liza Maza and Terry Ridon, heads of the National Anti-Poverty Commission and the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor, respectively, would leave the Duterte administration.

Zarate told The Manila Times the two were overseas.

Ex-Gabriela rep appointed

Also on Thursday, the Palace announced that the President had appointed former Gabriela representative and ex-Davao City councilor Luzviminda Ilagan as undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Sought for comment, Ilagan confirmed her appointment and disclosed that she was no longer a part of the Makabayan bloc.

“My terms in Congress are over. I am no longer part of the bloc,” Ilagan told The Manila Times in a text message.



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