Garcia backers to go on way

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SUPPORTERS of Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia, who lost the House leadership race this week, yesterday vowed to form an independent bloc to shadow Speaker Jose de Venecia’s every move.

With some members of the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats and the Liberal Party, Garcia’s group met at the Dusit Hotel in Makati City to draw up plans after failing to wrest control of the House Monday.

“We’ll be lurking around watching his every move,” said Kampi president Rep. Luis Villafuerte, referring to De Venecia.

Garcia backed out of the speakership race Monday when his camp failed to nominate him as a contender for the post.

Villafuerte said it was Garcia’s wish to drop out of the race, but the Cebu congressman’s son yesterday attacked Rep. Antonio Cuenco for “an act of treachery” when he nominated De Venecia.

Rep. John Pablo Garcia said Cuenco twice pledged support for his father’s speakership bid in writing before “stabbing him in the back” by nominating De Venecia.

The latest written pledge of support from Cuenco came just last Thursday, the younger Garcia said.

“My father taught us to respect our elders and that’s the only thing stopping me from really venting my disgust toward Manong Tony [Cuenco] for his unspeakable act of betrayal. Suffice it to say that bastusan at garapalan talaga ang nangyari, [what happened was that we were grossly and shamelessly insulted],” he said.

Cuenco called for both sides to make their peace.

“The bickering is over. We hope that both sides will now smoke the peace pipe and start cooperating for a better and more productive House in the 14th Congress,” he said.

De Venecia and Garcia supporters had traded barbs before Monday’s speakership fight.

During Monday’s opening of the 14th Congress, De Venecia refused to consider a proposal from Garcia that secret balloting be used to settle the speakership race.

Garcia, accusing De Venecia of railroading the proceedings, refused to participate in what he called “a sham.”

Villafuerte said that while the new bloc would be independent from De Venecia, they would remain loyal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her legislative agenda.

“We’re not leaving the administration,” he said.

By setting themselves off as an independent bloc, the new group could vote with the minority on certain issues.

Meanwhile, senior lawmakers identified with De Venecia yesterday started dividing the spoils, electing themselves to several key House positions.

With 171 lawmakers present, the House elected Iloilo Rep. Mat Defensor as the new House majority leader, replacing Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles.

Defensor said the election of the 11 members to the appointments panel would be completed next week.

“Election to the chairmanships of the other equally important standing House committees could be finalized also by next week. We have enough time for the reorganization,” he said.

Nograles was elected as the new head of the House contingent to the powerful Commission on Appointments, replacing Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, who ran for senator but lost in the May 14 elections.

San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, the new House minority leader, was elected last Monday. He replaced winning Senate bet Francis Escudero of Sorsogon.

The House also elected four new deputy speakers—Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar for the Visayas, Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson for Northern Luzon, Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong for Mindanao, and Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella for Southern Luzon.