NPC, Makabayan bloc express support for Duterte

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The incoming Duterte administration's stock is rising among lawmakers in the Lower House as more come out to support the presumptive president in the 17th Congress.

The latest is the country's second largest political party, the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), party of former Ambassador Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, which backed Senator Grace Poe in the 2016 elections.

"The party plans to work alongside President-elect Rodrigo Duterte for the betterment of our country," NPC spokesperson Mark Enverga told ABS-CBN News.

Enverga, however, said the NPC is still on the fence on the Speakership.

"For now, we intend to sit down and hear out the legislative agendas both of Cong. Bebot Alvarez and Speaker Sonny Belmonte," Enverga said.

Duterte has endorsed the Speakership bid of long-time friend and PDP-Laban party-mate, incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez. 16th Congress Speaker Sonny Belmonte currently leads the Liberal Party (LP) in the Lower House.

READ: Will Belmonte battle Alvarez for Speakership?

There are about 100 LP lawmakers in the Lower House, the largest bloc of congressmen. NPC is second with over 40 congressmen, followed by the National Unity Party, Nacionalista Party, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and Lakas.

The party-list coalition is a separate group of 40 congressmen, excluding the Makabayan bloc.

The House of Representatives has traditionally been led by surrogates of the sitting president, with congressmen historically switching loyalties to the president in office.

The Makabayan bloc, in a separate statement, said it welcomes the victory of Duterte, who has a commanding lead of six million votes over his closest rival, LP standard bearer Mar Roxas.

"We recognize such victory as an expression of popular outrage over and rejection of the regime of 'Daang Matuwid' and a cry for sweeping change in the elitist and anti-people system," it said.

The bloc then challenged the Davao City mayor to hold outgoing President Benigno Aquino III and Budget Secretary Butch Abad responsible for the allegedly illegal and graft-ridden Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

"Aquino and other responsible officials must also be held to account for the Mamasapano carnage and the killing and maiming of protesting farmers in Kidapawan," it added.

Belmonte, for his part, is still mulling his options. In 1998, Manny Villar led congressmen to the Estrada fold and this helped him secure the Speakership even if Estrada had other candidates for the job.

LAKAS TO TEST WATERS FOR MINORITY

On the flip side, Lakas-CMD may coalesce with other lawmakers to form a bloc with the UNA and see if they have enough numbers to form the new minority in the House.

Returning Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez told ABS-CBN News by phone: "Siguro ang direction namin is coalesce pero magfo-form kami ng bloc, maybe Lakas-UNA. That's our first direction. But if we will have sufficient number, you will try to run for the minority."

Suarez believes they might end up battling with Belmonte.

"Question siguro ilan matitira sa kanya at ilan mag-stick sa amin. We will try to form a coalition of different members and bid for the minority," he said.

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