Baguilat's allies to protest Suarez's minority leadership before SC

MANILA, Philippines – The drama over the House minority leadership is not over, after allies of Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr said they plan to contest Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez's victory before the Supreme Court (SC).

"It's an obligation on our part to question this before the Supreme Court. Our legal team is studying our options," said Caloocan City 2nd District Representative Edgar Erice on Wednesday, July 27. 

Seven of the 8 representatives who supported Baguilat's claim as minority leader called for a press conference minutes after Suarez was elected for the position.

They are Baguilat, Erice, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, Northern Samar 1st District Representative Raul Daza, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, and 1-SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta.

Capiz 1st District Representative Emmanuel Billones is an ally of Baguilat as well but he was not present on Wednesday.

Baguilat questioned how Suarez can be a proper minority leader when he is among the principal co-authors of the pet bills of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.

These include measures on the reimposition of the death penalty for heinous crimes and giving Duterte emergency powers to address traffic, among others.

"Garapalan na ang nangyayari [para i-control ang House], in summary (This is a blatant attempt to fully control the House, in summary)," said Baguilat.

He maintained that he and his allies will not be independent lawmakers but rather, they will form the "real and authentic minority."

"We will continue our role as fiscalizer," said Baguilat.

To become minority leader, a representative must vie for the speakership. Newly-elected House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez won the race with 251 votes. Baguilat came in second with 8 votes and Suarez with 7 votes.

Traditionally, the runner-up becomes the House minority leader.

But House Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas as well as Suarez's allies said House rules mandate that the minority bloc must hold separate elections to vote for their leader. (READ: House supermajority rejects Baguilat's claim as minority leader)

Fariñas, who heads the 251 members of the House supermajority, also reasoned that everyone who did not vote for Alvarez as speaker – even those who abstained – are part of the minority.

Suarez's bid for minority leader is also allowed because he said he only voted for Alvarez out of House tradition.

Suarez said on Wednesday that he immediately wrote a letter to the House Speaker at the end of Monday's session so he could join the minority and therefore run for its leadership post.

Section 8, Rule 2 of the 16th Congress rules adopted by the 17th Congress states: "Members who vote for the winning candidate for Speaker shall constitute the Majority in the House and they shall elect from among themselves the Majority Leader... The Minority Leader shall be elected by the Members of the Minority and can be changed, at any time, by a majority vote of all the Minority members.

"Members who choose not to align themselves with the majority or the minority shall be considered as independent members of the House. They may, however, choose to join the majority or minority upon written request to and approval thereof by the majority or the minority, as the case may be."

Supermajority has full control?

On Wednesday, Daza said he is saddened that the supermajority seems to be controlling even the minority bloc. 

"Itong gawain ng supermajority ay gawain ng mga trapo! We are turning the House of Representatives into a House of trapos!" said Daza. "Trapo" is short for traditional politician.

(The supermajority are being traditional politicians! We are turning the House of Representatives into a House of traditional politicians!)

Lagman added: "Ang gusto mong sabihin, Raul, garapalan na. Hawak na nga ang supermajority, hawak pa ang minority!"

(What you want to say, Raul, is that this a blatant attempt to control the House. They already hold the supermajority, they also control the minority!)

The lawmaker earlier warned against a "subservient" minority bloc should it be led by Suarez.

According to Lagman, the 20 lawmakers who abstained from voting but insisted they are members of the minority also "bastardized" the process.

Baguilat and his allies did not attend the minority bloc's elections on Wednesday.

Asked if this is a sign of protest from Baguilat's group, Suarez said: "I don't know. They were invited today." – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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