‘Rubber-stamp’ Congress emerging, warns lawmaker

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Returning Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman of the Liberal Party (LP) has called on his party mates to stop what he said was a sinister plot to turn Congress into a “rubber-stamp” with a company-union style administration and opposition bloc.

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Lagman was protesting an emergence of what he claimed was an alliance of a super majority and a subservient minority in the House.

“The apprehension is that parties in the majority coalition would clandestinely ‘lend’ some of its members to a small group led by a representative who previously encamped in Davao City to secure the anointment of the new administration for his bid to become minority leader,” he said in a statement, referring to Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, who had met with incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of PDP-Laban in the southern city.

There are at least 100 LP members in the 17th Congress but the defeat of LP standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd has reduced the party’s membership to at least 50 lawmakers.

PDP-Laban, the political party of President Rodrigo Duterte, already inked a coalition with the Nacionalista Party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition the National Union Party, the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party and the 57-strong party-list bloc.

“I call on my colleagues not to allow themselves to be pawns in a sinister plot to create a rubber-stamp Congress. I earnestly urge the remaining LP representatives to forge a minority coalition with similarly minded party-list representatives and members of the other parties; become the reasonable, credible and vigilant counterpoise to the new administration,” Lagman, who was elected back to Congress as an LP member, pointed out in his statement.

Suarez is from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) headed by former Vice President Jejomar Binay and has expressed intent to be the House minority leader.

He, however, is not alone in having such ambition since his fellow UNA member Navotas City (Metro Manila) Rep. Tobias Tiangco is also eyeing the House minority leader post.

“The constitutional precept of ‘checks and balances’ must not be sacrificed at the unholy altar of partisanship and expediency,” Lagman, a lawyer, argued.

If the LP decides to be the opposition, it will mean a renewed rivalry between Lagman and Suarez.

Lagman served as the House minority leader at the start of the 15th Congress in 2010 as then leader of opposition party Lakas-CMD.

It was agreed upon then that he would share his House minority leader term with his deputy minority leader, Suarez.

By the time that it was Suarez’s turn to be the House minority leader by the end of 2011, Lagman initially protested but eventually gave in to what was previously agreed upon.

Under House rules, the candidate for the Speakership who gets the second highest number of votes automatically becomes the House minority leader.

Alvarez is expected to win the Speakership with at least 210 votes, considering that the PDP-Laban already forged agreements with four political parties and a 57-strong party-list bloc.

“More than the ascendancy of a super majority in the House of Representatives, what is seriously alarming is a possible emergence of a co-opted minority [bloc]. This is a chemistry fatal to the democratic processes,” Lagman said.

LLANESCA T. PANTI

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