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Until the end, Suarez maintains House minority 'constructive' in 17th Congress

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez defended his bloc on the last session day of the 17th Congress, arguing they remained "constructive" despite criticism hurled at them in the past 3 years.

The Quezon 3rd District representative was teary-eyed as he delivered his goodbye speech on Tuesday, June 4, the day the 17th Congress is set to adjourn session sine die.

Suarez, who won as Quezon governor in the May 13 elections, recalled the times his minority leadership was challenged not just in the House, but even all the way to the Supreme Court (SC). 

"We have been called many names, but our accomplishments this 17th Congress show that our work speaks for itself. We worked quietly, focused only on the tasks at hand," said Suarez.

"We remained true to our vision of becoming a constructive minority – we give credit where it is due, and call the administration's attention when necessary, and always with a view to providing solutions," he added.

Suarez listed among the minority bloc's achievements the roles its members played in the House investigations on the proliferation of drugs in the New Bilibid Prison, and illegal gambling in the Philippines.

He said they also closely watched the deliberations on the tax reform package and ensured the passage into law of the tax amnesty bill.

Suarez has repeatedly been accused of being subservient to the House leadership, both under ousted Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and Alvarez's successor Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who counts Suarez among her close allies. 

Suarez's minority leadership was questioned in the SC 3 times. The first time was in 2016, when the so-called "Magnificent 7" bloc of Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr contested Suarez's election as minority leader before the High Court.

In past Congresses, the lawmaker who got the second highest votes in the speakership race automatically became the minority leader. But the Alvarez-led majority bloc changed the rules at that time and the minority bloc became mandated to choose their leader in a separate election. 

This led to Suarez's election as minority leader in 2016.  

Baguilat and his allies lost the case in the SC, which said it did not find any abuse of discretion on the part of the then-majority bloc to change the House rules.

When Arroyo took over as Speaker in July 2018, Suarez had voted in favor of her controversial rise as leader of the House. And yet Suarez still maintained his position under Arroyo's term.

This prompted two other blocs in the House – one led by former majority leader Rudy Fariñas and Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo of the Liberal Party – to file separate SC cases against Suarez once again. 

The High Court, however, has yet to rule on these cases, allowing Suarez to finish his term as the sole minority leader in the whole 3 years of the 17th Congress.

The 17th Congress is set to adjourn session sine die on Tuesday. – 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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