Manila lawmaker is new House minority leader

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23) — A returning lawmaker from Manila’s sixth district has been elected as the new leader of the House minority bloc.

The 28 lawmakers who did not vote for Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano elected Manila Rep. Bienvenido “Benny” Abante as their leader.

The group, consisting of district and party-list representatives, had announced their intention to choose Abante as their leader ahead of the first session for the 18th Congress where they voted for their bet for Speaker.

“I want the minority coalition to have an objective, critical collaboration with the administration. We’re not only here to oppose,” Abante told lawmakers after his election on Tuesday.

During his previous stints as a lawmaker, Abante chaired the House Public Information committee and pushed for a freedom of information law.

Abante is also a pastor heading the Manila-based Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church. He had publicly opposed same-sex marriage and the anti-discrimination bill.

The new minority bloc in the House is composed of a number of district and party-list representatives, including the left-leaning Makabayan bloc, which usually opts to be independent, and a handful of lawmakers from the opposition Liberal Party (LP).

Other LP lawmakers opted to join the majority bloc and voted for Cayetano as Speaker.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza also joined the House minority, despite having abstained from the voting for Speaker after Abante voted for Cayetano.

Abante vowed that the bloc would not be reduced to a “company union,” throwing shade at the House minority bloc in the previous Congress, which was first formed after 20 lawmakers from the majority bloc switched to the minority, edging out Liberal Party congressmen from the chamber’s leadership.

The House minority was again put in the spotlight following the coup on then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as the minority leader then, Quezon 3rd District Rep. Danilo Suarez, voted for Arroyo.

Under House rules, Suarez should have been part of the majority, but he managed to retain his leadership of the minority bloc.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.