Liberal Party can’t be new minority bloc just yet—Suarez
The minority bloc led by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez on Wednesday said the Liberal Party (LP) cannot just fashion itself as the new minority in the House of Representatives just yet.
Suarez made the statement after the erstwhile ruling party of then president Benigno Aquino III held a caucus on the possibility of bolting out of the super majority coalition amid the looming approval of the death penalty, which the LP opposed.
The LP deferred its move to bolt out, saying it will make a decision after the vote is made in the lower House on House Bill 4727 seeking to restore the capital punishment.
The bill has been amended in Tuesday’s session to remove plunder, rape and treason from the list of heinous crimes, limiting the death sentence to drug-related offenses.
The fate of the LP remains in limbo in the aftermath of the shake-up in the Senate, where LP senators were stripped of their chairperson posts in a clear bid by the majority to toe the line between administration allies and opposition lawmakers.
Suarez won’t directly respond to questions on whether he is threatened by the brewing minority led by the LP, whose members number 32 in the lower House.
But if the LP wants to become the new minority, it has to follow the House rules to repeat the process of selecting the minority leader by declaring the position of the Speaker vacant first, Suarez said.
“If they have enough numbers, can they be the minority? No, you have to change the Speaker,” Suarez said.
Suarez said the 27 LP lawmakers in the majority may opt to switch to the minority but subject to the approval of the minority members.
According to House rules, those who will vote for the winning Speaker comprise the majority, while those who vote for the losing Speaker will comprise the minority. The members of the minority will then elect among themselves who their leader will be.
But even the process of declaring the Speaker vacant requires the numbers, according to Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque.
Otherwise, the LP will have to settle for the independent minority, now led by LP lawmaker Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Roque added.
“Even if they declare it vacant, they must have numbers to declare it vacant. They have to be admitted as members of the minority,” Roque said.
“If the minority does not accept them, then they will become independent,” he added.
This would result in an event that the independent minority would outnumber the minority bloc, “but that’s the rules of the House,” Roque said. The Suarez-led bloc numbers only 18.
Roque said the LP cannot just declare itself as the new minority, because it has to be decided upon by the minority bloc first if they will be accepted.
“Hindi sapat na idedeklara sila na minority sila (It’s not enough that they declare themselves as minority). There has to be acceptance from the minority,” Roque said.
The majority bloc is composed of lawmakers who voted for the winning Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Traditionally, the lawmaker who gets the second most number of votes in the Speakership race is automatically the minority leader.
But this tradition was not followed in 17th Congress, when the minority leader was elected by among the members of the bloc according to House rules.
Suarez won the minority elections race, which was contested by Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat who won the second most number of votes in the Speakership race.
This brought about two minority blocs in the 17th Congress — the minority bloc recognized by the majority, and the independent minority bloc.
Baguilat leads the independent minority bloc which styles itself as the “genuine” minority.
From a 115-strong force in the 16th Congress, the LP has since been decimated to 32, and 27 of which are members of the majority bloc. Lagman, Baguilat and three other LP lawmakers belong to the independent minority.
Lagman earlier said the LP lawmakers are welcome to join them to augment the numbers of the “authentic” minority. JE
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