MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House independent minority bloc are challenging the minority leadership of Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez before the Supreme Court (SC).
"The issue on the premeditated marginalization or even demise of the House minority as engineered by the leadership of the supermajority is now with the Supreme Court for adjudication," said Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman on Tuesday, November 15.
Lagman, along with the following lawmakers, filed the petition for mandamus on October 14, but the petition was only docketed as GR Number 227757 on November 10:
The said legislators, who call themselves the "Magnificent 7" bloc, addressed the petition to Suarez, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas. (READ: Baguilat's allies to protest Suarez's minority leadership before SC)
They argued that Baguilat is the rightful minority leader as he had gotten more votes than Suarez when the two lawmakers vied for the speakership, which Alvarez won with 251 votes.
Baguilat voted for himself, getting 8 votes. Suarez, who voted for Alvarez, only got 7 votes. Twenty lawmakers abstained. Traditionally, the runner-up for speaker becomes House minority leader.
But House Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas argued that House rules mandate that the minority bloc choose its leader in separate elections. All those who did not vote for Alvarez automatically became part of the minority. (READ: House supermajority rejects Baguilat's claim as minority leader)
Suarez asserted he is also part of the minority as he had only voted for Alvarez out of respect for a longstanding tradition in the House. He was elected as minority leader on July 27.
Lagman's group had repeatedly opposed Suarez's win in media interviews, speeches, and manifestations in plenary sessions, and even in a letter sent to Alvarez and Fariñas.
Based on the petition, however, Alvarez and Fariñas failed to officially respond to the letter.
Now, the Magnificent 7 want the SC to name Baguilat as the rightful minority leader.
They are also asking the justices to determine whether or not Alvarez and Fariñas "unlawfully neglected to perform their ministerial duty, amounting to grave abuse" by failing to recognize Baguilat and instead considering Suarez a "coopted" minority leader.
The Magnificent 7 also want Alvarez and Fariñas to recognize them as "legitimate" members of the House minority.
'True colors' will come out
"If you review the bills filed by the administration starting from House Bill Number 1, which is the reimposition of the death penalty, Mr Suarez is a co-author of all these administration measures. So what kind of an opposition would you expect from someone [under] the supermajority?" said Lagman.
Should the SC decide in their favor, would the Magnificent 7 accept Suarez's bloc to the minority?
"It is time for them not to hide their true colors anymore. They can join the majority," said Lagman.
"If they want to apply, then under the rules, the minority leader, which is now Teddy Baguilat, would have to make an approval of their application," he added.
Read the full copy of the petition for mandamus below: