Stronger minority in 18th Congress still seen possible

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By Charmaine A. Tadalan

A CONGRESSIONAL candidate running under the Bayan Muna party-list group sees increasing support for the minority in the next three years, despite the consistently high satisfaction rating of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“In the next three years, especially leading to the 2022 elections, the trust will be going towards an alternative or the opposition,” incumbent Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate said in a phone interview, Friday.

“‘Yung minority d’yan, mag-gravitate ‘yung mga ayaw nang sumama sa isang sinking ship,” he added. (Members will likely gravitate to the minority, especially those who want to leave the sinking ship.)

Bayan Muna is among the 7-member independent Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives. Mr. Zarate is again its first nominee for the midterm polls.

Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo A. Garbin, Jr., for his part, said it is still difficult to determine the composition of the minority at this point.

“We cannot determine yet who will be the minority and majority in the House of Representatives, as of this time. It’s s too early to say that the minority will be stronger this 18th Congress,” Mr. Garbin said in a separate phone interview, Friday.

Both Bayan Muna and Ako Bicol landed as among the party-list groups most likely to secure seats in the House, based on Pulse Asia’s May 2019 survey.

Mr. Zarate raised the need for a stronger House minority to counter the administration’s attempt to shift to a federal government, which is seen to commence anew in the 18th Congress.

“Remember that the next three years of course there will be a realignment. That’s expected after the midterm election, it’s very crucial that the minority will represent the voice of the minority in the House,” he said.

“Especially after the midterm election, the Executive will really try to have control of both Houses. Next project of changing the Constitution, I think, will immediately be put on the table. Itutulak at itutulak nila yan. (They will really push for that).”

Sought for comment, University of Sto. Tomas political science professor Marlon M. Villarin said in a phone message, Sunday, “This midterm election is beneficial and detrimental to President Duterte’s administration especially to the members of the House — beneficial, because having a super-majority both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, the President is assured that most of his agenda is at the topmost priority and supported.”

“(I)t’s detrimental because making the Congress to be more of a rubber stamp instead of an effective fiscalizing body to the Executive can be very futile to our democratic institutions.”