MANILA, Philippines – Two House majority leaders faced off at the plenary in the wake of the removal of Eugene de Vera as party-list representative of the Arts, Business, and Science Professionals (ABS).
Former majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas came to De Vera’s defense, locking horns with current Majority Leader Rolando Andaya during the session on Tuesday, November 20.
Fariñas, a lawyer who landed in the top 8 of the 1978 Bar exams, cited jurisprudence from the Lico vs Comelec case and the 1987 Constitution as grounds for saying De Vera’s removal from the House is unconstitutional.
He told party-list lawmakers that they should not allow De Vera to be removed, as it would set a “dangerous precedent” for legislators to be “puppets” of their parties.
“Kayo pong mga kasamahan natin sa party list, ‘wag po kayong papayag nito dahil, ang ibig sabihin po nito, pagka ‘yong mga kasamahan ‘nyo sa party list eh magiging tuta nila kayo. They will dictate on you on how to vote and everything,” said Fariñas.
(To our colleagues here from the party list, do not allow this because this would mean you will become puppets of your party mates. They will dictate on you on how to vote and everything.)
The ABS party expelled De Vera as member after the latter questioned the minority leadership of Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez before the SC.
De Vera is an ally of Fariñas and ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, while Suarez is loyal to Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the woman who toppled Alvarez from power.
“You do not owe it to the party list. You owe your mandate to the 300,000 Filipino voters who gave you the mandate. Can you imagine, 8 members of the party list, ABS, ousted Eugene de Vera over 300,000 or 260,000 votes of the Filipino? That is a mockery of our republicanism,” said Fariñas.
Who should decide the case? He pointed out that in the Lico case, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that only the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) has jurisdiction over cases involving the qualifications of lawmakers.
The SC also ruled that being a bona fide member of the party is a continuing requirement for party-list legislators throughout their entire term.
Fariñas also invoked Article VI of the Constitution, which states that the HRET “shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective members.”
It was the SC ruling that Fariñas said he invoked when Kabayan Representative Ron Salo wanted then-Kabayan representative Harry Roque to be removed as congressman, following disputes within the party. (READ: No, Kabayan, you can’t just kick out Harry Roque)
“If they feel that he no longer represents them, let them go to the HRET, and the HRET will decide, ‘Yes, you are no longer the representative and you are removed as such.’ And he can appeal with the Supreme Court,” said Fariñas.
How did Andaya respond? Andaya said the issue is not about De Vera’s qualification as congressman, but the forfeiture of his membership in ABS.
The Camarines Sur 1st district representative argued that because De Vera filed his candidacy as congressman for Marikina’s 2nd district for the 2019 elections, the embattled lawmaker already “abandoned” ABS.
Andaya zeroed in on the fact that, in his certificate of candidacy, De Vera wrote that he is running independently.
“The citation of various cases from the SC are of no instance in this matter…. The removal is merely an effect of a prior act which led to his removal, and that specific term – let it not be lost in translation – is the forfeiture of his allegiance to his party-list. Yes, he is independent. He does not belong to any party. Therefore, he isn’t in allegiance to any party,” said the Majority Leader.
“So, in effect, he has forfeited his party. So what are we supposed to do? Pretend that he is still with his party?” asked Andaya.
It must be noted that, a day before, Andaya merely referred to the communication received by the House leadership from ABS regarding De Vera’s expulsion from the party as basis for the latter’s removal from the roll of House members.
The theory over De Vera’s supposed abandonment of the ABS party was raised during the all-member caucus that the House leadership called on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the session.
What happens now? Despite Fariñas’ impassioned defense of De Vera, the latter’s removal is still in place.
The House plenary merely gave Fariñas time to speak. But after his exchange with Andaya, no other motions regarding De Vera’s removal was made on the floor. The plenary moved on to approve bills on 3rd reading.
De Vera previously said he would go to the SC to protest his removal from the House. – Rappler.com