Alvarez-Fariñas bloc to be 'very helpful' minority under Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines – Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas said if the House majority bloc would recognize his group as the minority, they would be "helpful" for the legislative agenda of the administration.  

Fariñas said this is because he was the majority leader before the ouster of his ally, Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, as Speaker. (READ: The women behind the fall of Alvarez)

"As assurance to them, 'di kami oppositionist (we will not be oppositionist). We will not block them. In fact, I will help them.... I was the majority leader for the first two regular sessions. So whatever is the success of the 17th Congress will be my success. Its failure will be my failure because 2/3 of the 17th Congress, I was the majority leader," Fariñas told reporters on Tuesday, July 31.

"They are assured of a smooth process in the House and it will be very good because I would help to improve whatever legislation they would want to pass. I will be very helpful," he added in Filipino.

The 13-member Alvarez-Fariñas group is one of the 3 blocs laying claim over the minority after the election of Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as Speaker.

The other two groups are the Liberal Party (LP)-Makabayan-Magnificent 7 alliance, which asserts Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo is the duly elected minority leader, and the bloc of Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez, the minority leader under Alvarez.

Fariñas already threatened to go to the Supreme Court should Suarez remain minority leader, as most of the members of the latter's bloc voted for Arroyo as Speaker. Under the House rules, all those who did not vote in favor of the winning candidate for Speaker constitute the minority.

While lawmakers from the LP bloc either voted no or abstained from voting for Arroyo, Fariñas said they should still not be considered the minority. (READ: Liberal Party lawmakers claim they're real House minority

Fariñas said this because Arts, Business, and Science Professionals Representative Eugene de Vera, who was Suarez's deputy, did not participate in the speakership vote and is therefore the acting minority leader. 

"Correct, they (LP bloc) are no longer part of the majority. But they have to apply to the existing minority. They cannot by themselves claim they are now the minority because there was no question in the minority. The election of the Speaker is an action of the majority," said Fariñas.

But Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman and Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said the House rules are silent on the succession of power.

Warning vs LP as 'opposition' minority

Fariñas also warned the Arroyo-led majority against a House minority bloc filled with members of the LP. 

He said the LP-Makabayan-Magnificent 7 lawmakers would bloc the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Arroyo vows to push Duterte agenda in House)

With the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2019 polls happening in October, Fariñas said Congress is running out of time.

"But what is scary is, for example, if you put the LP at the helm, and with due respect, we know that the Vice President [Leni Robredo] – who I respect highly because she was [a] former colleague here – has taken the face of the opposition as its leader. It's different when you talk about the opposition. They would be an opposition. They will oppose the programs of the President," said Fariñas.  

Concerns over the lack of checks and balances have already been raised against the Alvarez-Fariñas bloc, as most of these lawmakers are Duterte and Arroyo's party mates at the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan. 

"Eh nakita 'nyo naman 'yung trabaho ko sa Bangsamoro Organic Law. I started from page one up to the last page. Ginagawa ko lahat.... Eh kung ano'ng tama, kung legal, bakit hindi? Program ni Presidente, program ni GMA, kung maganda naman?" replied Fariñas.

(You saw how I worked on the Bangsamoro Organic Law. I started from page one up to the last page. I did everything I had to do.... If the bill is right and legal, why not push for it? If the bill is good, does it matter if it's a program of the President or the program of GMA?)

But Quimbo and his allies argued they have to be recognized as the genuine House minority precisely because they will act as the true fiscalizers in the lower chamber.

"Nakita namin kung papaano ipinagkait sa minority ang tunay na boses ng checks and balances noong nagsimula ang Congress na ito no'ng July 2016.... Nananawagan kami na dapat matuto tayo sa eleksyon na ito para gawin natin 'yung tama, sundin natin 'yung rules," Quimbo told DZBB.

(We saw how the minority was deprived of being the true voice for checks and balances when this Congress started in July 2016.... We are calling on our colleagues to learn from the past election and do what is right, follow the rules.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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