Suarez — Binay ally — elected House minority leader
(Updated) Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) was elected on Wednesday as minority leader by members of the minority bloc.
The minority bloc met at the House of Representatives to elect their leader despite a House tradition wherein the second placer in the Speakership race is named minority leader.
In Monday’s election, Suarez came in third after Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat of the Liberal Party placed second to now Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
But the majority floor leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said the rules were clear that the minority leader would be elected by members of the minority, which would be composed by those who did not vote for and abstained from voting for the winning Speaker.
In the ensuing vote, Suarez was elected by 22 members of the minority while three abstained: Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe, AAMBIS OWA Rep Sharon Garin and Isabela Rep. Ma. Lourdes Aggabao.
This means Suarez is back at the minority post after serving as minority leader in the 15th Congress, at the time there was a leadership row between him and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Lagman and Suarez were on a term-sharing agreement as minority leader before the start of the 15th Congress, until Lagman accused former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo of being behind an ouster move against him to install Suarez as minority leader.
Amid the scuffle for minority leadership, Lagman in 2012 resigned as minority leader and chairman of Arroyo’s Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrat. He jumped ship to the Liberal Party.
In a short speech, Suarez, who belongs to the party of former Vice President Jejomar Binay, vowed to lead a constructive minority bloc that would ensure checks and balances in government.
He said he may agree on death penalty, being a co-author of the bill to restore capital punishment, but members of the minority bloc would have differing positions on such sensitive issues facing Congress.
Suarez maintained however that his win as minority leader was legitimate and part of the numbers game in the politically-charged Congress.
“The plenary is a numbers game. At the end of the day, it would be the numbers that would prevail,” Suarez said.
“Healthy debate would prevail in the plenary. But as I said, at the end of the day, it is a numbers game,” he added.
During the meeting, the minority bloc adopted the rule that the minority bloc must comprise of lawmakers who both abstained from voting and did not vote for the winning speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.
This despite tradition in the House of Representatives that Congress is divided into majority and minority — the majority composed of lawmakers who voted for the winning speaker, and the minority composed of those who did not vote for the winning speaker.
Meanwhile, those who neither wanted to join the majority nor the minority would become independent members of Congress.
Tradition vs House rules
Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, a human rights lawyer, quoted Rule 2, Section 8 of the House rules, which states that the minority leader could be elected by members of the minority.
Roque, who voted for Suarez in the speakership race, said what Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman was referring to was the tradition that the minority leader would come from the second placer in the Speakership race.
It was Lagman’s Liberal partymate Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. who got eight votes against Suarez’s seven in the speakership race, making the Ifugao brave the rightful minority leader if traditions were followed.
But Roque said House rules should prevail over tradition in the House of Representatives.
“(Lagman) was alluding to tradition. But tradition cannot prevail over rules. It may have been the case in the past that they allowed tradition to prevail, but not when the rules are now being enforced literally, as it was, in fact, done today,” Roque said.
In the previous Congress, San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora won as minority floor leader when he lost at second place to then winning Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
About Liberal Party stalwart Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice’s statement to take up the minority race mess to the Supreme Court, Roque said the judiciary could not take jurisdiction over the issue concerning the internal affairs and rules of the legislature, a separate branch of government, unless there is grave abuse of discretion.
“They have threatened to go to the Supreme Court. I don’t think the court will act on it, because this refers to a matter of internal rules of a co-equal branch of government, and is therefore a political question, outside the jurisdiction of the court,” Roque said.
“I don’t think there is grave abuse of discretion, because we implemented the letter of the rules. This will prevail over tradition,” he added.
Roque bristled at Lagman’s accusations that the minority bloc is a “company union” for the majority-led coalition, citing his position to vote for Suarez and not the Liberal Party member Baguilat because of his stance against the erstwhile administration party.
“Napipikon ako sa sinasabi nilang company union (I’m upset about their mention of a ‘company union). My stand is I don’t see the benefits of federalism, I don’t agree with death penalty, and decreasing the age of criminal liability; that’s why I voted for the minority,” Roque said.
“Why did I not vote for Baguilat? Because Baguilat and Lagman are members of the Liberal Party, whom I fought for the last six years! Why will I join them,” Roque defiantly said.
The members of the minority who voted for Suarez are: Aangat Tayo Rep. Harlin Abayon III, Binan City Rep. Marlyn Alonte-Naguiat, Laguna Rep. Arlene Arcillas, Manila Rep. Amanda Bagatsing, Abra Rep. Joseph Bernos, ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz, COOP NATCCO Rep. Anthony Bravo, Taguig-Pateros Rep. Arnel Cerafica, Butil Rep. Cecilia Chavez, A-Teacher Rep. Julieta Cortuna, ABS Rep. Eugene De Vera, Pasig city Rep. Richard Eusebio, Kalinga Rep. Abigail Ferriol, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza, Makati Rep. Luis Campos, Makati Rep. Manuel Monsour Del Rosario, Agri Rep. Delphine Lee, Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque, Agri Rep. Orestes Salon, and Alona Rep. Anna Marie Villaraza-Suarez. JE
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