Imee Marcos blocking Fariñas’ bid to retain House leadership

MANILA, Philippines – Legislators allied with House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos is campaigning to stop her rival Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas from getting a leadership position in the lower chamber.

This was disclosed to reporters by AKO Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe and Quezon City 2nd District Representative Winston Castelo on Monday, July 30.

According to Batocabe, a manifesto is being passed around among members of the House of Representatives expressing support to retain Fariñas as majority leader. Fariñas held the position before the ouster of Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez last week.

“What reached us is that there is a manifesto for Fariñas to be retained as majority leader and there are attempts to talk to our members in support of Majority Leader Fariñas,” said Batocabe in Filipino.

But Castelo said their colleagues from the northern provinces are divided, as Fariñas is embroiled in his own political conflict with Marcos. (READ: #AnimatED: In this corner, Marcos vs Fariñas)

“The concern here is, I think, reading the body language of some of our colleagues, there are some representatives in the northern provinces who [are unsure] because there is a political dynamic in the north, in Ilocos [Norte]. Because we all know that Imee was very active in campaignining for the installation of Speaker GMA,” said Castelo.

The Marcos’ family commands control over the “Solid North” provinces. She, along with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, had lobbied to unseat Alvarez and replace him with former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Represenative Arroyo.

Marcos has an axe to grind against Fariñas, as he and two other lawmakers launched an investigation into the alleged misuse of P66.45 million worth of provincial tobacco funds to purchase vehicles.

Both the House committee on good government and public accountability and the Commission on Audit  recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against officials of the Ilocos Norte provincial government. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales herself said on July 12, they are now looking into the same anomalies.

On July 24, however, Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel and Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali already said the Alvarez-Fariñas bloc will not join the Arroyo-led majority and will instead be a part of the minority. (READ: Battle for House minority looms as Alvarez bloc accepts defeat)

But two other groups are claiming the minority post: the Liberal Party lawmakers joined by 7 left-leaning legislators of the Makabayan bloc, and the group of Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez, who was minority leader under Alvarez.

The issue is yet to be settled among those 3 groups. Arroyo said she will not be intervening in the election of the minority leader.

Under the House rules, any legislator who did not vote in favor of the winning candidate for Speaker will automatically be part of the minority. Minority lawmakers would then hold a separate election to name their leader. – 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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