'Expect tyranny' in House with only 18 elected LP representatives – Kit Belmonte

MANILA, Philippines  – The composition of the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress won't be much different, as opposition lawmakers are set to be outnumbered by administration allies once again.

Reelected Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher "Kit" Belmonte said only 18 representatives under the Liberal Party (LP) won in the May 13 elections. Belmonte is secretary-general of the once-ruling LP.

"Our last count is 18 representatives so far – not much different from our numbers in the current Congress. Which means you can expect the same tyranny from the supermajority," said Belmonte in a statement on Wednesday, May 15. 

Aside from Belmonte, the following LP congressional candidates succeeded in their respective local races:

"The Liberals and its allies will continue to stand for our values. Maaaring kaunti kami, pero lalaban kami. Dahil hindi nadadaan sa paramihan ng mga nakataas na kamay ang tama at mali," said Belmonte. 

(The Liberals and its allies will conitnue to stand for our values. We may be few in number, but we will fight. Because the raising of hands does not determine what's right and wrong.)

The LP, however, was not a solid opposition party in the House when the 17th Congress began under President Rodrigo Duterte. 

In July 2016, a majority of the LP lawmakers, including Belmonte himself, stayed in the supermajority bloc and formed an alliance with Duterte's Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan. (READ: Being 'dilawan' in the Duterte-controlled House)

Five other LP legislators – Lagman, Erice, Billones, Daza, and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr – were left in the independent minority bloc called the "Magnificent 7," which has long been critical of Duterte's policies. 

But things changed after the July 2018 House coup that made former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo the new Speaker.

Most of the LP legislators voted against Arroyo, and the party tried to lay claim over the House minority bloc against two other factions in the lower chamber. The LP wanted the House leadership to recognize Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo as the new minority leader. 

LP lawmakers even formed an alliance with the left-leaning Makabayan bloc to boost their bid for the House minority.  

But in the end, Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez, a loyal Arroyo supporter, retained his minority leadership.

The House leadership recognizes the LP legislators as part of the independent minority bloc, which means they cannot vote in House committees. – 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.