Arroyo hands off in House minority row

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said she will not intervene in the ongoing battle for the minority leadership in the House of Representatives.

"I leave that to the parliamentarians [to settle] among themselves," said the Pampanga 2nd District representative in a chance interview on Wednesday, August 1.

Arroyo granted the interview on the sidelines of the Greening the NLEX project of NLEX Corporation, which will plant an additional 62,000 bougainvillea saplings along the 23-kilometer stretch from Balagtas, Bulacan to San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Three blocs of lawmakers are now fighting over the minority bloc after the dramatic ouster of Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez and Arroyo's election as Speaker last week.

Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo said he is now the minority leader, as his bloc composed of the Liberal Party, Makabayan, and "Magnificent 7" is the "duly constituted" minority after they either voted no or abstained from voting for Arroyo.

But Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez, the minority leader under Alvarez, insists he still holds the post despite voting in favor of Arroyo.

Alvarez's bloc is also claiming they are now in the minority. Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas, who was the majority leader under Alvarez, argued it is Arts, Business, and Science Professionals Representative Eugene de Vera, Suarez's deputy, who is now the acting minority leader. This is because De Vera did not participate in the vote for Arroyo.

There is now a deadlock over the House minority leadership, as none of the 3 blocs seem to be willing to yield. Debates are ongoing at the plenary.

Quimbo said they are hoping Arroyo would finally settle the issue once and for all. The duly constituted minority would have to be recognized by the majority bloc.

"Umaasa kami na at the end of the day, it's going to be the Speaker's call… Kahit ano pa'ng gawin namin diyan, kung sino ang gustong kilalanin ng Speaker, 'yun ang mananaig," said Quimbo in a DZBB interview.

(We're hoping that at the end of the day, it's going to be the Speaker's call.... No matter what we do, it's the Speaker's choice that would prevail.)

Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez, an ally of Arroyo, agreed.

"At the end of the day, the recognition of the Speaker will be the one to determine which one will be adopted [as minority leader]," he said.

But another ally of Arroyo, Nueva Ecija 4th District Representative Magnolia Antonino, said it is the Speaker's "firm belief" that the minority leadership issue is something to be worked out by the minority lawmakers themselves.

"It is a matter of delicadeza, I guess, that it would look really bad if the majority, if the Speaker would decide who the minority is. The minority is meant to be checks and balances," said Antonino.

"Kung si Speaker din ang naglagay ng minority leader, ano pong klaseng minority leader 'yun? Eh di kakampi din ni Speaker 'yun (If the Speaker selects the minority leader, what kind of minority leader would that person be? He or she would also be an ally of the Speaker)."

Fariñas already said his bloc would be "very helpful" in passing administration bills if the Arroyo-led majority recognizes them as the minority. The same is expected of Suarez, a longtime ally of Arroyo who even campaigned for her to be the Speaker.

Only Quimbo's bloc has vowed to closely scrutinize proceedings in the House to provide checks and balances. – 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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