House fight for minority leader may reach SC
THE MESSY fight for minority leader in the House of Representatives of the 17th Congress is expected to reach the Supreme Court if Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez recognizes Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez instead of Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat.
Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said the majority coalition led by PDP-Laban should respect the rules and recognize the votes of the eight lawmakers who chose Baguilat in the speakership race on July 25 to avoid an embarrassing clash in the high court.
Erice said Suarez clearly lost the battle for the minority post because he had only seven votes.
The Caloocan lawmaker also noted that Suarez was technically not a minority member, having voted for Alvarez for the speakership race.
Supposedly, the second highest vote-getter in the election for Speaker automatically gets to be the minority leader.
Erice claimed that the majority bloc was trying to manipulate the results of the voting by refusing to recognize Baguilat as the minority leader and allowing the minority bloc to conduct another vote just to enable Suarez to win.
Baguilat said the House had suffered from the majority’s dirty tricks.
If you’re in purgatory and in limbo, what right do you have to call for a meeting of the minority bloc to elect its leader? This was the question raised on Tuesday by those who voted for Baguilat after they received a letter from those who abstained from choosing the Speaker inviting them to a meeting of the minority bloc today at 10 a.m. to choose their leader.
‘Neither in heaven nor hell’
Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza described the 21 representatives who abstained from voting on Monday as akin to those in purgatory who are “neither in heaven nor hell.”
“Why would they call for a meeting? I think it’s funny,” Daza said in his interpellation of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who pushed for the minority leadership of Baguilat.
“I said, how can the independent members of the House constitute themselves as minority and arrogate to themselves the authority to elect a minority leader?” Daza said, adding they do not have any right or privilege to convene a meeting of the minority.
Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco raised the same point. “There was a paper given to me but I refused to sign it because for me, it’s a scrap of paper. They are independents until such time they are accepted as minority or majority,” he said on the floor.
Lagman, Daza and Tiangco were among the eight congressmen who voted for Baguilat, who ran against Alvarez “to do what is right.”
Baguilat voted for himself. The others who voted for him were Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Erice, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin and 1-Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta.
Alvarez received 251 votes, Baguilat, eight, and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, seven.
Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said there was no minority leader yet, and he pushed for the meeting and election today (Wednesday).
Atienza was the one who asked the majority leader, Ilocos Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, who comprised the minority and its leader.
Fariñas replied that based on Section 8 of the rules, the minority leader should be elected by members of the minority bloc.
But the Baguilat group insisted that by tradition, the one who received the next highest vote to the elected Speaker would become the minority leader.
Lagman also questioned why Suarez was even being considered as in the running for minority leader when he voted for Alvarez, automatically making him a part of the majority.
By tradition, a nominated candidate does not vote for himself, Suarez told reporters.
At press time, the congressmen have been debating for nearly three hours to thresh out the minority leadership.
The Baguilat group believed that the majority bloc tried to manipulate the elections on Monday to ensure Suarez would become the leader of a “friendly minority.”
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