Alejano, Villarin ready to join House minority

By Charissa Luci-Atienza

MAGDALO partylist Rep. Gary Alejano and Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said Thursday they are willing to join the bloc of Liberal Party lawmakers who abstained from voting for the new Speaker to form a genuine opposition.

MAGDALO partylist Rep. Gary Alejano and Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin (MANILA BULLETIN) MAGDALO partylist Rep. Gary Alejano and Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin

The members of the Magnificent Seven bloc of the House of Representatives expressed readiness to be part of the minority bloc, led by Miro Quimbo.

"I am willing to join with them but would continue my independent stand on issues," he said in an interview.

In a separate interview, Villarin said, "The minority bloc includes us in the Magnificent 7 but even then, our group will maintain our fiscalizing role in the sharpest line as possible."

"Speaker GMA’s agenda is to give full support to President Duterte which we opposed from the start of the 17th Congress," the Akbayan lawmaker said.

During the LP lawmakers' press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman expressed confidence that "credible and competent allies" like Alejano and Villarin will definitely part of their group.

When asked if he would support the possible inclusion of the seven-man Makabayan bloc in the LP group, Alejano said: "We will see...wala pa naman."

The LP minority bloc announced on Wednesday that it agreed to install Quimbo as their Minority Leader.

Aside from Lagman, the LP minority bloc members are Reps. Kit Belmonte, Francis Gerald Abaya, Kaka Bag-ao, Josephine Ramirez-Sato, Teddy Baguilat, Bolet Banal, Gabby Bordado, Edgar Erice, Jocelyn Limkaichong, Raul Daza, and Toff de Venecia. (Charissa M. Luci-Atienza) ###

The decision was arrived at during the group's first organizational meeting Thursday.

The group sent a letter to Speaker Gloria Macapagal 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 on Wednesday afternoon.

The bloc maintained that Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez cannot be considered as the leader of the House opposition after voting and campaigning for Arroyo.

Quimbo said his group is the duly constituted Minority under the House rules.

The former deputy speaker is referring to the Rule II, Section 8 of the Rules of the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court decision G.R. No. 227757 promulgated July 25, 2017, which states that “xxx (a) all those who vote for the winning Speaker shall belong to the Majority and those who vote for other candidates shall belong to the Minority; (b) those who abstain from voting shall likewise be considered part of the Minority; and (c) the Minority Leader shall be elected by members of the Minority.”

In a statement, the LP lawmakers said, "If we want Congress to produce policies that are worthy of the promise of democracy to the people, we must not allow this to happen again because if it does, we go back to the very reason why the change in the House speakership occurred—ineffective leadership that refuses to recognize differing opinions and persuasions.”

"And with this kind of leader, we need a Minority that fiscalizes; one that is reasonable and has the ability to represent alternative points of view that provide us with more effective legislation. After all, this is our sworn duty to our citizens. We need a Minority that is not an extension of the majority, unlike in the immediate past,” they added.