Lagman abandons Arroyo, quits Lakas

Carmela Fonbuena

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Rep. Suarez takes over as minority leader

MANILA, Philippines – In the end, it was House Minority Leader Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman who gave in.

“I am resigning as Minority Leader to give way to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s anointed one,” Lagman said in a statement on Thursday, January 19.

For weeks, Lagman and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez have been battling for the Minority Leader position. Suarez is insisting on a supposed term-sharing agreement, which Lagman is not honoring.

“My relation with some minority members who are closely allied with and beholden to Arroyo has become grossly untenable,” Lagman said.

Lagman and Suarez have been the most active defenders of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Chairman of Arroyo’s party, Lakas, Lagman had defended her in the various impeachment complaints filed against her when she was still President. Lagman was at the airport with Arroyo when she tried to flee in December.

Suarez is also a key Arroyo ally. He hit the headlines when he claimed that he paid for the US$15,000 meal that then President Arroyo had in Washington D.C’s Bobby Van’s Steakhouse in 2009. Mrs Arroyo was criticized for supposedly using public funds for a luxurious meal.

Arroyo’s hand?

Lagman has accused former President Arroyo of supporting moves to oust him.

“ I cannot continue serving a political aggrupation which deliberately refuses to recognize competent, militant and responsible leadership and would opt to follow blindly the importuning of former President Arroyo,” Lagman added.

But incoming Minority Leader denies that Arroyo is involved.

Suarez said it’s “sad” that President Arroyo is dragged in the issue. “The former President has nothing to do whatsoever in this change of leadership. There’s no plot, no move or what you call a marching order. It is a very clear issue of agreed term sharing,” he said.

“The [former] president is saddled with mountains of problems,” Suarez added.

Lagman said he will explain his resignation before the plenary on Tuesday, January 24.

Nevertheless, Suarez said the minority members would like to thank Lagman for leading them.

“We have come up with the manifesto [expressing] our appreciation and support for his one-year-and-a-half years of leading the minority. This change of leadership is an equal challenge to me that I will try to be the leader of minority,” Suarez said.

Under his watch, Suarez said they would like to be a “constructive minority.” –

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