MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya said two coups in the lower chamber in 2000 and 2008 set the precedent for the retention of Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez as minority leader.
“This is not a unique situation. May precedent na rito (here) and of course, the precedence and past practices of the House always form part of our rules,” said Andaya in a Rappler Talk interview filmed on Wednesday, August 8.
He delivered a privilege speech on the same issue during the plenary session in the afternoon.
On August 7, lawmakers chose to retain Suarez as the minority leader in a vote of ayes and nays. But critics argued he no longer holds the post, because Suarez campaigned and voted for Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to replace Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez as Speaker.
Andaya first cited the ouster of then-Las Piñas representative Manuel Villar as speaker in 2000. Villar was unseated by allies of former president Joseph Estrada because Villar fast-tracked the transmittal to the Senate of the articles of impeachment against Estrada. Then Camarines Sur 3rd District representative Arnulfo Fuentebella became the new speaker.
Andaya then mentioned another House coup in 2008, when then Pangasinan 4th District representative Jose de Venecia was replaced as speaker by former Davao City 1st District representative Prospero Nograles in the wake of the controversial NBN-ZTE deal.
Andaya said there were minority lawmakers in 2000 and 2008 who voted for Fuentebella and Nograles, respectively, yet they still remained in the minority bloc.
“It’s very identical to the situation. Only the Speaker was removed. All other officers below remained. The minority leader was still the minority leader,” he said.
“You had members then of the minority voting for the change of speakership but still remained in the minority. So you had members there from the majority voting against the change of leadership,” Andaya added.
He conceded that the present rules of the House do not envision a situation where the change in leadership is at the top level. But he said there’s a reason for this.
“I don’t think any speaker in their right mind will include such rules on how he or she can be replaced…. That will always be kept silent. Luckily, we have past events to justify and give legality to the acts of the plenary,” said Andaya.
He also said closeness to the speaker does not bar a lawmaker from becoming minority leader.
Andaya views the battle for the minority in a positive light, saying the House now has 3 groups of lawmakers who can provide checks and balances in the lower chamber.
“‘Di ba mas maganda ‘yun? (Isn’t that better?) We’ll come up with better quality legislation. [It’s like] you have 3 other sets of eyes reviewing what the administration is doing. So I think we’re in a healthier position now in terms of the House of Representatives,” he said.
Andaya had been Camarines Sur 1st District representative from 1998 to 2007 and 2010 to the present day, a total of 17 years so far.
Aside from Suarez, two other lawmakers claimed they now hold the post of minority leader after the Alvarez ouster: Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo from the Liberal Party-Makabayan-Magnificent 7 alliance and Arts, Business, and Science Professionals Representative Eugene de Vera from the Alvarez bloc.
Now, the Quimbo-led and De Vera-led blocs are set to file two separate Supreme Court cases against Suarez to question his minority leadership. – Rappler.com