At least seven opposition lawmakers have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to install Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat as minority leader in the House of Representatives, declaring that their group is the authentic minority in the chamber.
The declaration was contained in a petition for mandamus filed by Baguilat as well as Edcel Lagman of Albay, Raul Daza of Northern Samar, Edgar Erice of Caloocan City (Metro Manila), Emmanuel Billones of Capiz,
Tomasito Villarin of Akbayan party-list and Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list against Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte and Danilo Suarez of Quezon.
“The issue on the premeditated marginalization or even demise of the House minority as engineered by the leadership of the super majority is now with the Supreme Court for adjudication. Petitioners who constitute the authentic minority are the real oppositionists in the House as shown by their consistent advocacies and pronouncements critical of the administration and the majority,” Lagman told reporters.
He cited that Baguilat was the clear runner-up to Alvarez in the Speakership contest on July 25, 2016, and as such is the duly elected House minority leader in accordance with the House Rules.
Section 8 of Rule 2 of the House Rules states that all those who did not align themselves with the majority or the minority, as when they abstained from voting in the Speakership contest, are considered independent members of the House, not as minority members.
The race’s third placer, Suarez, only earned seven votes and voted for Alvarez for the Speakership.
“Suarez was disqualified to be minority leader because he belonged to the majority after voting for Speaker Alvarez. Suarez as the majority’s ‘minority leader’ has utterly failed to discharge the role of the opposition,” Lagman said.
“Congress is not an assembly of the majority only. It is a parliament of duly mandated Representatives, including the minority whose inalienable rights of free expression and dissent must be respected. There is need for an independent minority who shall hold the government to account for its commissions and omissions,” the petition of the seven lawmakers said.
Another election for House minority leadership was held on July, 27, 2016 wherein Suarez emerged as a winner with 22 votes–a poll that Baguilat and the seven who voted for him did not join.
Lagman then cited that the separate election of the minority leader by members of the minority under the Rules of the House only applies when there is no clear runner-up to the Speaker as when there was a lone candidate (which happened in the 14th Congress in 2007) or when three candidates for Speaker figure in a tie for runner-up (circumstances that were not present in the Baguilat-Suarez case).
“Suarez was ‘elected’ by [a group]principally consisting of pseudo minority members who were directed by the leadership of the super majority to beef up the small group of Suarez by first abstaining in the election for Speaker and then convening to elect Suarez as ‘minority leader.’ With 10 of those who ‘elected’ Suarez as ‘minority leader’ soon returning to the majority coalition, this reveals a malevolent scheme to subvert the choice of a minority [bloc]leader,” he said.
Suarez is co-author of a bill seeking to restore death penalty for heinous crimes, including drug trafficking.
The petitioners against Suarez’s House minority leadership oppose the reimposition of capital punishment.
“An authentic minority serves as a watchdog reining in government excesses and holding the government of the day accountable to the people. A genuine opposition will be able to debate legislation vigorously in the legislative committees and the plenary by opposing measures that are violative of the Constitution or inimical to the people’s welfare even as it introduces perfecting amendments to basically sound legislative proposals,” they said.