• Liberals, PDP-Laban unity deal collapses

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    The PDP-Laban and the Liberal Party on Tuesday called off their scheduled signing of a coalition agreement to form a “super majority” bloc in the House of Representatives after LP members led by former Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. decided instead to form a 40-strong minority bloc in the chamber.

    The signing of the unity pact between the two parties hit an impasse that was never ironed out when incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte set a condition that only 20 LP members can join the so-called super majority in the House of Representatives.

    Belmonte, the LP vice chairman, did not give in to the condition, citing at least 30 party members who have opted to stick with the party even after the defeat of LP standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd in the May elections.

    Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd of the PDP-Laban was unfazed by the collapse of the coalition talks, saying the Senate presidency is still in the bag for him.

    “I don’t feel any shaking of the ground [that]will change the decision of my fellow majority bloc senators. Anyway, the Senate presidency is a responsibility. It can be taken away from you any time. The important thing here is that the [number of]majority [bloc]senators has remained. Nothing has changed,” Pimentel told reporters.

    The Senate in the 17th Congress has seven LP members–outgoing Senate President Franklin Drilon, Joel Villanueva, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Leila de Lima and Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th—making the party’s vote crucial in the race for the Senate presidency.

    “I won’t comment on House matters because Rep. Alvarez has autonomy there and I also have autonomy here. But it does not mean that the friendship between the PDP-Laban and the LP won’t happen here in the Senate just because it is not the same situation in the House,” Pimentel pointed out.

    “The signing of the coalition agreement is a requirement of [presumptive]Speaker Alvarez. Dito, kindatan lang kami [Here in the Senate, we can just wink at each other]. We don’t have the same requirement because my colleagues trust the competence of the one they have chosen to lead the Senate,” he said, referring to himself.

    Pimentel earlier said he had secured the backing of at least 15 of his colleagues in the race for the Senate presidency.

    Sen. Alan Cayetano, who was the running mate of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 polls and lost the vice presidential race to then-Camarines Sur Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, is also aiming at the Senate’s highest seat but only has at least three senators on his side: Cynthia Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Richard Gordon.

    Only two senators are part of the Senate minority bloc: Francis Escudero and Antonio Trillanes 4th, both of whom also lost to Robredo.

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