Danilo Suarez stays as House minority leader

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The majority bloc has spoken: Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez is still the House minority leader.

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya moved to recognize Suarez as the minority leader on Tuesday, August 7.

Northern Samar 1st District Representative Raul Daza tried to object, but he was ignored by Andaya and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, who was presiding over the session.

Aside from Suarez, two other lawmakers were claiming they were the minority leader.

Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo said he was already elected by the Liberal Party-Makabayan-Magnificent 7 alliance as their minority leader, while Arts, Business, and Science Professionals Representative Eugene de Vera  was also elected for the post by the group of Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, who was recently ousted as speaker.

Suarez's recognition as minority leader was put up for a viva voce vote or a vote of ayes and nays. Most of the lawmakers, including those who belong to the majority bloc allied with Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, voted aye to Suarez as minority leader.

"If our relationship here between the leadership and the minority will be questioned just because of the minority, I will repeat: The minority since the time I assumed office is constructive. We are not destructive!" said Suarez in a mix of English and Filipino.

"And with the remaining session in this 17th Congress, halos 3 buwan na lang tayo magtatrabaho, bakit pa ho tayo mag-aaway? Eh ang dami pa ho nating issue na kailangang [ayusin]," he added.

(And with the remaining session in this 17th Congress, with 3 months left for us to work, why would we still fight? There are still so many issues for us to fix.)

Suarez has held the post since Alvarez's term as speaker. But during the House coup last July 23, Suarez campaigned and voted for Arroyo.

Former majority leader and Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas from the De Vera bloc earlier threatened to go to the Supreme Court (SC) if Suarez remained minority leader.

What did Quimbo and De Vera say after losing the minority battle? With a viva voce vote, lawmakers' individual votes will not be recorded.

But both Quimbo and De Vera continued to lay claim over the minority leadership on Tuesday.

"While the motion earlier had already been acted upon... this representation would like to put on record our continuing objection to the recognition of Congressman Suarez as minority leader for simply being illegal, not in due course, and at the same time in direct violation of the Supreme Court decision... in July 2017 [in the] case of Baguilat vs Alvarez," said Quimbo.

He was referring to an SC case filed by independent minority lawmakers against Suarez's election as minority leader. But Suarez won the case.

Likewise, De Vera slammed the manner by which Suarez was retained as the minority leader under Arroyo.

"I object to the election or the recognition of the honorable Danny Suarez as the minority leader. Your honor, the preamble of our rules is very clear: It is there in the last sentence that we would faithfully obey these rules. Do you think by having recognized the honorable Suarez as the minority leader, we have faithfully obeyed the rules? My answer is in the negative," said De Vera.

Who else objected to a Suarez minority leadership? Aside from Quimbo and De Vera, the following lawmakers manifested during the plenary that they were voting no to Suarez:

Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman manifested he was abstaining from the vote. – 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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