MANILA – With a week to go before the opening of the 17th Congress, the remaining Liberal Party members in the House of Representatives have decided to be the main opposition to "fiscalize" the supermajority of the Duterte administration.
Quezon City Rep. Sonny Belmonte, House Speaker of the 16th Congress, will vie for the minority leadership. Under the House rules, the runner-up in the Speakership race automatically becomes the minority leader.
The decision was made during a brunch meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas Tuesday morning and after the PDP-Laban canceled the signing of a coalition agreement with LP on Tuesday.
In a text message Monday, likely majority leader of Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of PDP-Laban said:
"It has been cancelled as the LP has been vacillating as to whether it will join the majority coalition or not. The PDP-Laban has been bending to accommodate all the LP's requests, even to have 30 or so members joining the Majority Coalition. But since June 7, which was the first agreed upon date for the signing of its Coalition Agreement with the PDP-Laban, the LP has been vacillating."
Belmonte on Tuesday said the remaining members of LP in the Lower House wanted him to seek the minority leadership.
"There were about slightly less than 30, about 28 people who were there and after several of them started to talk about their views, they wanted immediately to hear my views. Sabi ko, 'Yes. Anyway, we have been talking to one another virtually every week trying to see the thoughts of everybody we have a pretty good idea of what we... everybody wanted.''
"For myself, I will seek the minority leadership... I believe, under me, if elected, we have a good and credible opposition, which in the long run will be good for the administration," Belmonte added.
Belmonte is expected to face Quezon Province Rep. Danilo Suarez and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, both of the United Nationalist Alliance for the minority leadership. UNA has less than 20 congressmen.
Belmonte admitted this was his plan all along. However, he revealed that many of his party mates wanted to join the pro-Duterte majority. But still, there were LP members who wanted to be in the opposition.
Asked if the division of the committee chairmanships was a factor in their decision, Belmonte said the principal positions are reserved for the prerogative of the Speaker.
"I understand (that) the principal positions had already been long ago reserved for the prerogative of the Speaker, which to me is right. I refer to the majority leader, appropriations committee chairman, accounts chairman, the ways and means chairman – those were his prerogatives. They were also my prerogatives before. I don't think the meeting they had same time as we're having. I don't think they are distributing committees at that point, not formally, they were discussing legislation," Belmonte explained.
He reiterated that they won't be obstructionists to the administration.
Last week, Vice President Leni Robredo joined the Cabinet. She admitted they have yet to figure out their role in the administration. And as far as she is concerned, her position in the administration should have no bearing on the party.
"Naku, hindi pa iyan napapag-usapan sa party. ‘Yong mga Liberal Party na nasa Senado, nagkaroon kami ng pagpupulong, informally. ‘Yong House of Representatives ngayon ang wala pang desisyon. Kasi, iba-iba ‘yong kagustuhan ng mga members. Pero ako naman, ‘yong several meetings na dinaluhan ko sa kanila, ang sinabi ko sa kanila, huwag nila akong isipin. Huwag ninyo ako isipin, mag-decide kayo on your own. Kung ano magiging desisyon ninyo, I will support you on it. Tingin ko naman kasi, hindi ko dapat pakialaman ‘yong desisyon ng mga House of Representatives kasi para namang iba ‘yong parameters na ginagawalan nila, mayroon silang mga constituents na kailangan isipin," she explained.
Robredo admitted the party is fast losing members.
"Every day nababawasan kami. ‘Yon naman ang reality, hindi ‘yon nakakatuwa pero ‘yon naman ang reality na kailangang harapin."