By Ben Rosario and Ellson Quismorio
A revamp that will affect at least half of all committee chairmanship and other key posts is underway as newly installed Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo prepares to take on vital legislative tasks within the month.
PDP-Laban, the largest political group in the Lower House, quickly regrouped Wednesday to extinguish a possible fallout that could threaten party unity as a result of the hostilities triggered by the recently concluded speakership controversy.
Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, reportedly designated as the party whip, revealed that the administration party remains formidable and will continue to play its role as the ruling political group in the House of Representatives.
Benitez said former speaker Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez was not present in the meeting but sent word, through Energy Secretary Al Cusi, that he will continue serving as the party’s secretary general.
Arroyo presided over the urgent party caucus, vowing to “take up the cudgels” for the party.
Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said over 80 of the 119 PDP-Laban congressmen were present at the caucus with many of the absentees pledge to support the new House leadership.
“We will maintain and further strengthen the majority coalition. The Duterte administration’s legislative agenda, particularly the early passage of the proposed national budget, will be our priority,” he added.
The senior administration lawmaker admitted that while there will be changes in committee chairmanship, there will be “no purging” merely because a party member did not show support to Arroyo during the plenary voting for speakership.
Benitezled a big group of PDP-Laban members that backed Arroyo’s ascension to the top House leadership.
Sticks with Minority
Meanwhile, Minority Leader Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez disclosed that House members who did not support the motion to give Arroyo the speakership will be stripped of majority posts, including chairmanship, because they have effectively become members of the minority.
The majority leadership postcurrently held by Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, is one of the key positions to be contested by Arroyo supporters. Among the candidates include Reps. Lord Allan Velasco (PDP-Laban, Marinduque); Rolando Andaya (PDP-Laban, Camarines Sur); Suarez and Benitez.
“At least 50 percent of the top positions in committees and other bodies will be affected by the leadership change,” said Suarez.
Initially, Suarez said he will resign as minority leader and join the new House leader.
But on Wednesday, Suarez decided to stay with the House Minority Bloc.
“There was a change of heart…I will maintain my position until the closing of the 17th Congress,” Suarez told reporters in a press conference.
Suarez’s decision to stay in effect kept the 17-member bloc together amid a brewing battle royale on which House faction should be considered the “true” Minority.
On the same day that Suarez decided to stay in the minority, the 12 Liberal Party (LP) lawmakers who abstained from voting for Arroyo agreed to install Marikina Rep. MiroQuimbo as “minority leader.”
In a press conference, Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte, LP secretary general, announced that they “agreed that our Minority Leader is the Honorable MiroQuimbo.” The decision was arrived at during the group’s first organizational meeting Wednesday.
Quimbo said they sent a letter to Speaker Arroyo informing her that the Minority has been constituted and organized and the minority leader has been elected. The letter was received by the Office of the Speaker Wednesday afternoon.
“The Minority is ready to work with the Majority,” he told reporters. The Marikina lawmaker said he is resigning as deputy speaker. “The fact I voted to abstain, sinusuko ko ang deputy speakership,” Quimbo said.
He also clarified that their effort to form the “genuine” Minority has no clearance from Vice President LeniRobredo, LP chair. (With a report from Charissa Atienza)