MANILA, Philippines — Political butterflies continue to flit to the PDP-Laban a year after President Rodrigo Duterte’s electoral victory, the latest being nine congressmen, including five members of the Liberal Party, who took their oath before Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the ruling party’s secretary general, Wednesday afternoon.
The nine new PDP-Laban members are:
-Geraldine Roman of Bataan, LP
-Ansaruddin Adiong of Lanao del Sur, LP
-Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato, LP
-Alfred Vargas, Quezon City, LP
-Winston Castelo, Quezon City, LP
-Abdulmunir Mundoc Arbison, Sulu, Nacionalista Party (NP)
-Scott Davies Llanete, Masbate, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC)
-Divina Grace Yu, Zamboanga del Sur, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC)
-Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Camiguin, Lakas
Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III earlier took his oath, jumping from his old party, NP.
PDP-Laban, which started as a party of three in the 17th Congress, now has 121 members of the 292-strong lower chamber, according to Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
“This shows the growing support for President Rodrigo Duterte,” Alvarez said.
Romero Federico Quimbo, a stalwart of LP, said the recent defection should serve as a reminded for Congress to “finally start having a serious discussion on strengthening political parties.”
“Federalism, a main mantra of the administration, will not work unless political parties are strengthened. A federal government working under a parliamentary system will be very unstable if politicians can simply switch parties whenever convenient,” he said.
Quimbo said he was “disappointed” with the defection of his partymates. “But frankly, we have no choice but to understand their decision. Those that have asked permission have stated their deep concern for their districts and the coming 2019 elections,” he said.
“They’ve been convinced that the best way to get re-elected is by joining the majority party. These are political realities that face many leaders,” Quimbo added.
Roman said the decision to join PDP-Laban was meant to show support for the President.
“I want to help this administration to succeed because the success of the President and this administration is the success of the entire nation,” Roman said.
Roman, the first transgender woman elected to Congress, however, acknowledged as well that local politics was a factor for jumping ship. “I also look after the welfare of my district.”
Castelo and Vargas also said they want to help the Duterte administration by being with his political party.
The Quezon City bloc, composed of six congressmen at the House used to be solid LP. With the departure of Castelo and Vargas, the three congressmen in Quezon City remained with LP — former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte and Jorge “Bolet” Banal. Rep. Francisco Calalay of the first district died in December last year.
Both Vargas and Roman said they earlier informed the LP leadership about their decision, while Castelo said it was “work in progress.”
LP colleagues ‘understand’ defectors’ motives
The LP, the former ruling party during the time of President Benigno Aquino III, is now reduced to 27 members – 22 of whom are with the majority bloc and five with the independent minority.
Rep. Kit Belmonte said the LP leadership understood the decision of their colleagues to jump ship.
“Madaming dahilan pero at the end of the day, may local concerns ka at saka mahirap talagang maging LP sa panahon na ito, kailangan i-consider din ang 2019 (mid-year elections),” he said.
“We understand and we wish them well; mahirap maging LP ngayon, in fact, we started out in the 17thCongress as more than 100 ngayon under 30 na. We look at it as a time to solidify,” he added.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, LP president, said, “After the elections, 115 congressmen were voted into office as Liberal Party members. But the attraction and admittedly the benefits of being part of the good graces of Malacanang were hard to resist; thus, the exodus of party members to the fold of the new ruling party.”
“After six months in the LP leadership, we soldier on, taking on the challenges and holding on only to this: that we as a people are what the rest of the world knows about us: generous and forgiving, welcoming and loving, not prone to violence or ruthlessness,” Pangilinan added.