The Liberal Party (LP) headed by former President Benigno Aquino 3rd will sign a coalition agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s PDP-Laban on Tuesday, solidifying the looming “super majority” bloc in the House of Representatives.
Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr., LP vice chairman, made the announcement on Friday or two days after five party members jumped ship to PDP-Laban namely: Reps. Ma. Theresa Collantes of Batangas, Lorna Bandigan of Davao Occidental, Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao, Maricar Zamora of Compostella Valley and Ann Hofer of Zamboanga Sibugay.
“I asked him [Alvarez] on when would the signing [of the coalition agreement]be. The reply I got was from [Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo] “Rudy” Fariñas, who told me that on Tuesday [next week], we will have the signing,” Belmonte said.
Fariñas is a former LP member who transferred to PDP-Laban when Duterte emerged as the overwhelming winner of the 2016 presidential race with at least 16 million votes.
The LP’s standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd finished second in that race with about nine million votes.
“We have to recognize one thing and I have to take off my hat to them that the PDP-Laban had actually managed to grow this big now,” Belmonte, who served as the Speaker of the House for six years, said.
The PDP-Laban has at least 93 members as of this week, and Alvarez is considered a shoo-in for the Speakership since the PDP-Laban has already coalesced with the Nacionalista Party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the National Union Party, the Lakas-CMD party and the 47-strong party-list coalition bloc.
The Makabayan bloc, composed of representatives from Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan and Anakpawis are also supportive of President Duterte.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat on Thursday conceded that from as many as 115 after the May 9 elections, the LP members have been down to at least 30 people and that there are remaining party members who want to join the ‘super majority’ even if the LP won’t have much leverage joining at this late stage of the game.
Baguilat was referring to committee chairmanships, which are allotted to members of parties allied with the majority bloc.
“Traditionally, the committee chairmanships are given to third-termers or second-termers. I am a third-termer. I would prefer to [head]the House Committee on Agrarian Reform or the Committee on Indigenous Peoples, but I doubt if there are still available slots given that other parties have long been with the majority and the LP is yet to sign an agreement with them [PDP-Laban] at this point,” he said.
Baguilat, however, sees a silver lining in the LP’s situation.
“More or less, we are 30 left. We still have a significant number for the minority leadership because whether the LP joins the majority, the majority bloc already have the numbers to win the Speakership race,” he pointed out.
Under House rules, the one who gets the highest vote in the Speakership race will be the Speaker of the House. The second highest vote-getter will then settle for the House minority leader post.
Aside from LP, the only political party yet to sign a coalition agreement with the PDP-Laban is the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) led by former Vice President Jejomar Binay.
UNA, however, is bound to fail in contesting the minority bloc against the LP because there are only seven UNA members left in the House of Representatives.
Two UNA members, Rep. Sol Aragones of Laguna and Rep. Luisa Cuaresma of Nueva Vizcaya, had also left UNA for the PDP-Laban.