MANILA - The minority bloc in the House of Representatives is "united" under its current leader, and ousted Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and his allies may apply to join the group, a lawmaker said Thursday.
Cayetano was removed as Speaker when 186 of his colleagues voted to install Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as the new leader of the chamber.
Those who did not vote for Velasco will have to apply to join the minority, since there were no changes in the bloc following the leadership change, said Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate.
"Hindi automatic na sila ay minority na kaagad (It's not automatic that they're immediately part of the minority). There is a still constituted minority led by Cong. Benny Abante," he told ANC's Headstart.
"Based on our rules, ang nagpalit lang talaga ay ang Speaker. Di naman nagpalit ang minorya. From the statement of Speaker Velasco, status quo ‘yan unless the minority will decide that there will be a change," he said.
(Based on our rules, only the Speaker changed. The minority did not change. From the statement of Speaker Velasco, it's status quo unless the minority decides there will be a change.)
Asked if this meant there is no need to call for a new minority leader, Zarate said it is up to the members of the bloc to decide on that, but as of now, "we are united in the leadership of Cong. Benny Abante."
Valenzuela City Rep. Eric Martinez, an ally of Velasco who was booted from his committee chairmanship in the heat of the wrangling for Speakership, said Cayetano could become part of the minority.
"The reading that I see is most probably Speaker Cayetano would go to the minority. [He] would be part of a genuine opposition in Congress. I think that would be healthy for us," Martinez told ANC's Matters of Fact on Wednesday.
Zarate said such a move would have to be a "personal decision" for Cayetano and the collegial body of the minority will decide on accepting him to the group.
"Kami naman, welcome lahat ng makakasama basta’t gampanan natin ang ating papel bilang mambabatas at kung nasa minorya, ang pagiging fiscalizer sa loob ng House," he said.
(We welcome anyone as long as we all play our role as legislators and if in the minority, as fiscalizers inside the House.)
The Makabayan bloc of progressive lawmakers did not join the proceedings that elected Velasco as Speaker as this is a concern of the supermajority, said Zarate.
The group also manifested to Velasco in a meeting on Wednesday that they wish to remain in the minority.