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Charlie V. Manalo and Gerry Baldo

Rumble at House for minority post

Tuesday, 26 July 2016 00:00 Published in Headlines

As expected, the House of Representatives yesterday una-nimously elected Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez as Speaker of the 17th Congress but not before a controversy erupted on the minority leader post.

With a vote of 251 from 293 members of the lower chamber, Alvarez bested Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat who got eight votes and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez who garnered seven votes. Eight lawmakers were absent while 21 abstained.
While it was a normal practice for previous Congress to accord the Minority Leadership to the one who gets the second highest votes, Majority Leader Ilocos Norte Rudy Fariñas cited a House rule wherein those lawmakers who would not be voting for the winning candidate for the Speakership would have to be considered as members of the Minority bloc. They, in turn, would be allowed to elect among themselves the Minority Leader.

Baguilat who should have bagged the post based on the votes insisted that he is now the House Minority Leader.
Citing House rules and legislative precedents, Baguilat said there is no other genuine minority leader than him after garnering the second highest number of votes in the speakership race won by Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte who obtained 251 votes.
This developed as Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, president of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), resigned as UNA member and president. He said that he was disappointed by the alleged maneuvering by the supermajority in the selection of the next House Minority Leader.
The confusion happened following allegations by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a stalwart of the Liberal Party (LP) and supporter of Baguilat, that the supermajority allegedly plotted to establish a co-opted minority leader.
Baguilat said Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, a stalwart of UNA whom Tiangco tagged as the alleged secret candidate of Alvarez in the race for the House minority leadership, cannot claim the minority leadership because he only got seven votes compared to Baguilat’s eight votes.
Suarez also voted for Alvarez which effectively made his a member of the majority.
“It was very clear that I am the House Minority Leader. We cannot change the rules at the middle of the game. The rules and precedents are clear and it favors my assumption as House Minority Leader,” Baguilat said.
Baguilat referred to previous elections of Speaker where the candidate who got the second highest number of votes automatically becomes the House Minority Leader.
But Suarez said Baguilat should submit to the interpretation of the rules by Fariñas that those who did not vote for the winning Speaker will be part of the minority and can elect their own minority leader.
“That was very clear, those who did not vote for the winning Speaker which is Congressman Alvarez can elect their own minority leader, including our colleagues who abstained, if they want to be part of the minority,” said Suarez referring to 21 lawmakers who abstained, including Alvarez.
Using the argument of Fariñas, Lagman said Suarez cannot assume the minority leadership because he voted for Alvarez who won the race.
Earlier in the proceeding, Fariñas told Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza that losing candidates in the speakership race would become the minority leader, and that those who voted for Alvarez will comprise the majority membership.
Minority leadership hangs
As of press time, the Minority bloc totaling to 36, have yet to elect the Minority Leader.
In his acceptance speech, Alvarez once again emphasized the priority measures of the Duterte Administration which include the restoration of death penalty for heinous crimes as the resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) over the country’s proposed shift to federalism.
“We must give the President the necessary legislation as instrument and tools for change,” said Alvarez.
The new House leader also reminded his colleagues to prioritize the passage of the proposed special powers for the chief executive over the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila as well as to be prudent to crafting next year’s proposed National Budget.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, was elected into office on the basis of a simple promise to the Filipino people. Genuine change. Those were refreshing words for a people tired and weary of rising criminality, proliferation of illegal drugs, traffic congestion, corruption, and plain incompetence. Those were the words that blew on the mainsail of his campaign and brought him to a new horizon – the horizon of national transformation,” said Alvarez.
However, Alvarez said it would be impossible for Duterte to effect change if he acts alone.
“No one man or woman, not even a Superman, can forge genuine change without the cooperation of the other branches of government, and the cooperation of the people themselves. True and genuine change can only come if we, as a people and as a nation, join hands with the President in achieving it,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez: No pork in House

Wednesday, 13 July 2016 00:00 Published in Nation

There will be no pork barrel or lump sum allocations for members of Congress, period.

Presumptive Speaker Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez issued this statement yesterday as he reiterated that lawmakers under his leadership as incoming House speaker will only be allowed to propose projects needed in their districts.
“I never said that members of the House of Representatives ‘will be entitled to their usual district allocations.’ The Supreme Court has already ruled against such lump sum allocations,” Alvarez said.
“What I said was that congressmen will be allowed to propose projects needed in their districts so they can be included in the line budgeting of the General Appropriations Act (GAA),” he added.
Alvarez said the function of identifying priority projects is inherent in members of the House of Representatives because “the people go directly to us to tell us what projects are badly needed by their communities.”
“This is the reason why the framers of our Constitution made sure that budget-setting starts at the House,” he said. “We congressmen are at ground zero, so to speak.”
Alvarez also reiterated that the budget for the projects approved for inclusion in the GAA would be given to the agencies of the government that will implement them.
“The Duterte administration has a strong anti-corruption program. Woe to the lawmaker who will propose a project with the end-in-view of making money out of it in the manner it was done in the past through under-the-table commissions from implementors,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said that the misimpression may have arisen from the P80 million cap that had been proposed for each legislative district per year, divided between infra (roads, bridges, school buildings) and non-infra expenditures such as medicines.
“Putting a cap on project costs is realistic because public funds are limited and thus must be used judiciously. We want bang for the buck to get the most benefit for our people,” he said.
He said there is no truth to the claim that every congressman will be given his “due.” “We in government cannot take or even consider a single centavo of taxpayers’ money as our due. Corruption has no place under this administration.”
Meanwhile, Kabataan partylist Rep. Sarah Elago has vowed to scrutinize all forms of pork barrel, whether congressional or executive even as Alvarez clarified earlier reports that each legislator would be getting P80 million allotment in the 17th Congress.

LP decimated as stalwarts lead jump into PDP-Laban

Friday, 03 June 2016 00:00 Published in Headlines

Once, the Liberal Party (LP) membership was described as being small enough to fit in a Volkswagen beetle car but grew to be the biggest party in 2010 when President Aquino was installed as the Chief Executive. But the current exodus from the party to the side of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s PDP-Laban may just result in the LP reverting to its former size.   
If “political butterflies” is what one uses to describe turncoats, what Liberal Party members are doing is precisely that.
Last Thursday, 10 members of the party led by outgoing President Aquino and losing presidential bet Mar Roxas to Duterte’s camp including Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali, Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas and Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, all of whom were Aquino-Roxas loyalist and defenders of the LP faith, left the party and swore allegiance and fealty to Duterte’s party.
Umali is the brother of LP Treasurer Alfonso Umali Jr., a close friend of Aquino.
Treñas chaired LP’s membership and organizing panel, while Sarmiento headed the House transportation committee.
Also sworn in as PDP-Laban party members were Ilocos Norte Rep. Rudy Fariñas, Representatives Lucy Torres-Gomez (Leyte), Jose Antonio Alvarado (Bulacan), Maria Lucille Nava (Guimaras), Deogracias Ramos Jr. (Sorsogon), Jesus Sacdalan (North Cotabato), Glona Labadlabad (Zamboanga del Norte), and Zajid Mangudadatu (Maguindanao).
The National Unity Party (NUP), a coalition partner of the LP has also moved to the PDP Laban.
Those who signed the formal agreement for and between the two parties were Davao de Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez; PDP vice chairman, incoming Energy secretary Alfonso Cusi; NUP chairman, Antipolo Rep. Roberto Puno; NUP president, Bataan Rep. Albert Garcia and NUP vice president, Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong.
“Right now we have 32 congressional seats and nine to 10 governors and several mayors and other positions,” Garcia told reporters covering the event at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati.
Right after the signing, Puno read a resolution made by NUP installing Alvarez—President-elect Duterte’s chosen one for the House Speakership—as the party’s “chairman emeritus”.
“I sincerely thank the NUP for its support to the Duterte administration and the changes it envisions,” Alvarez said.
The mass defections were executed in a simple ceremony held inside a private suite of Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City
Alvarez, PDP-Laban secretary general and Duterte’s bet for House Speakership led the oath taking ceremony during the event.
Alvarez said he expects their party to grow bigger in the coming days.
“I think we’ll be hitting (a membership) of around 80 or 100,” he said.
Cusi, PDP-Laban vice chair said the party’s membership in the House of Representatives has swelled to around 60 lawmakers from the original three, including Alvarez.
Last week five district representatives also took their oath before Alvarez as new members of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) after winning their respective seats namely Ricky Sandoval (Malabon-Navotas), Abraham Tolentino (Cavite), Roy Loyola (Cavite), Estrelita Suansing (Nueva Ecija), Along Malapitan (Caloocan City), and Vincent Crisologo (Quezon City).
Belmonte coalescing too
Meanwhile, Alvarez disclosed that he is currently in talks with incumbent Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. over the possibility his inclusion on the majority bloc.
“Yes we’re considering that (including Speaker Belmonte in the majority bloc). That’s always an option for Speaker Belmonte and I would welcome whatever his decision may be,” said Alvarez
Alvarez said Belmonte did not need to leave the LP if he wanted to join the majority group.
Last Tuesday, speaking before House reporters, Belmonte assured Duterte of his full support when he assumes office on June 30.
Belmonte added the decision of some LP members and other political parties to join the majority coalition supporting Alvarez is in the best interest of themselves and their constituents.
Belmonte said he is trying to negotiate with Alvarez to treat LP members who have joined the majority coalition in the same way they have treated the other congressmen belonging to other political parties like the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).
Belmonte also said he hopes the LP members could still retain their membership in the party even if they joined the PDP-Laban as coalition partners.
On the possibility of his  becoming the Minority leader, Speaker Belmonte said the opposition is still an important part of democracy.
“Whether we like it or not, there would still  have to become a member of the opposition and both the administration and the country should welcome it,” said Speaker Belmonte.
On the appointment of some leftist members in the Duterte cabinet, Belmonte said such move would be a better solution to finally close the chapter of NPA rebellion in our history.
“If President Duterte succeeds in ending the rebellion, I think that in itself will be a great achievement,” Belmonte said.


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