‘Authentic opposition’ Lagman slams practice of ‘anointing’ House minority exec
MANILA, Philippines — Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman on Tuesday slammed the House leadership’s practice of “anointing” the Minority Leader, saying it makes democracy a “shameful farce.”
During Tuesday’s session, as he delivered his “counter Sona” as a member of the “authentic opposition,” Lagman said he was disappointed that the House leadership picked “the majority’s minority leader,” who he claimed is” a convenient adjunct of the majority coalition.”
“This is an open secret, a brutal fact. A eunuch of a minority leader who is a convenient adjunct of the majority coalition makes parliamentary democracy a shameful farce,” he said.
“Seeking refuge under the wings of the ruling majority at the expense of one’s convictions is abhorrent. Self-respect is precious. It is not a commodity for partisan haggling,” Lagman added.
The Albay lawmaker continued saying he was an opposition member of the House “who is not beholden to the majority and ready to expose the administration’s importuning and excesses.”
After Lagman’s speech, the new House Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan took offense at veteran lawmaker remarks, calling them “unparliamentary.”
To dispute Lagman’s speech, Libanan said no provision in the 1987 Constitution or the House Rules about the opposition could be found.
Traditionally, members of the minority blocs in both the Senate and the House are considered members of the opposition for not voting for the winning candidate for Speaker.
The House Rules state that the Minority Leader shall be elected by the members of the minority and can be changed, at any time, by a majority vote of all the minority members.
“I do not see here in the Constitution, nor the rules mentioning about opposition. It is a matter of choice, whether you want to go to the majority [bloc] or you want to go to the minority [bloc], provided you perform each and every task which is required of you,” Libanan said.
The House leader said the minority bloc is expected to be “vigilant in the defense of the minority’s rights to criticize constructively the policies and programs of the majority and employ parliamentary tactics and keep close attention to all proposed legislation.”
“That, we take the challenge and we will not allow any unparliamentary language stated in this august chamber,” Libanan said.
He also said the minority would “not allow anybody to step on the rights” of their constituencies.
Lagman, responding to Libanan, said the House leader “has a guilty conscience” if he feels “alluded to and is reacting” to the Albay representative’s remarks.
He also defended his statement, saying he did not say anything unparliamentary, albeit using “picturist and truthful language.”
According to the House Rules, Lagman pointed out that the minority leader should not be selected by the majority bloc.
“But it has been happening since several Congresses ago and I have enough evidence to show that a caucus was held and the members of the minority have been anointed by the leadership,” he said.
He also said Minority Leaders never take their oath of office before the Speaker, which Libanan did just a few hours earlier.
Once a Minority Leader, Lagman said that the previous Minority Leader Benny Abante “does not also recall he took his office before the majority and before the Speaker.”
“The Minority Leader is not supposed to be beholden to the majority.
The veteran lawmaker also pointed out how Libanan nominated leaders of the minority bloc, asking for the approval of the House.
“That should never be done. The deputies and assistant minority leader should never be approved by the House. That is the prerogative of the minority unless the minority is an adjunct of the majority,” he said.
He also noted how the House Secretary General announced that there should be a meeting of the minority bloc to select their leader.
“These are all ill marks of a co-opted minority,” Lagman concluded.
As early as May this year, Lagman has called on his colleagues in the House not to perpetuate the practice of anointing a minority leader as an adjunct of the majority coalition.
He said this is to “allow critical dissent to flourish and respect the independence of a vibrant, although only a handful, of minority Representatives.”