LAWMAKERS belonging to the minority in the House of Representatives named Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez as their leader in a meeting on Wednesday morning, stripping Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat of the post.
Baguilat was barred by the “Super Majority” coalition from assuming as minority leader after three hours of debate on Tuesday, even if he won the second highest number of votes in the election for Speaker of the House on Monday.
Under House rules, the runner-up becomes minority leader. Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez of PDP-Laban, a top ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, was elected Speaker with 251 votes, defeating Baguilat of the Liberal Party (LP) who got 8 votes.
Suarez, who had been expected to win the minority leader post, got only 7 votes.
But 21 lawmakers abstained from Monday’s voting, and this meant that all House members who did not vote for Alvarez needed to select the minority leader from among themselves, said House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte.
On Wednesday, 22 lawmakers voted to install Suarez, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of defeated presidential candidate Jejomar Binay, as minority leader.
Suarez said he was proud of what happened in the House.
“Of course, because it was clear what the majority leader had said: those who will not vote for the winning candidate should elect the minority leader among ourselves,” Suarez said during Wednesday’s meeting.
“I have a vision to help the government, and I am for healthy debate here in the House,” he said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, an LP stalwart who voted for Baguilat, lost no time disparaging the Suarez-led bloc, calling it a “fake minority” formed at the behest of the new majority coalition.
Lagman and Northern Samar Rep. Raul Daza also pointed out that Suarez voted for Alvarez, and under House rules, Suarez is part of the Super Majority.
“That is a fake minority. We (Baguilat bloc) are the authentic minority. We are very disappointed and disgusted that the process of electing a minority leader has been bastardized because a co-opted minority leader has been chosen by a renegade group of abstentionists who are not even members of the minority bloc,” Lagman said in news conference.
Lagman, Daza and Baguilat, however, are also renegades from their party, the LP, which had signed a coalition agreement with the Alvarez-led Super Majority.
Baguilat nevertheless conceded and said his group will be the “conscience” of Congress.
“Does Representative Suarez have the moral ascendancy to be the lead fiscalizer here? We did not have illusions of winning the House minority leader post, but surprisingly, we won. Having said that, I will continue being the fiscalizer here,” Baguilat said in a news conference.
Party-list lawmakers abstain, then vote
Among the 22 who voted for Suarez as House minority leader on Wednesday morning were himself, Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list; Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list; Monsour del Rosario and Luis Campos of UNA; Delphine Lee and Orestes Salon of Agri party-list; Anna Villaraza Suarez of Alona party-list; Harlin Abayon of Aangat Tayo party-list; Arlene Arcillas of Laguna; Joseph Bernos of Abra; Oscar Garbin of Ako Bicol party-list, Abigail Ferriol-Pascual of Kalinga; Eugene de Vera of ABS party-list; Julieta Cortuna of A-Teacher party-list; Arnel Cerafica of Taguig-Pateros; Anthony Bravo of Coop-Natcco; Aniceto Bertiz of Acts-OFW; Amanda Bagatsing of Manila; Marlyn Alonte-Naguiat of Laguna; and Cecila Chavez of Butil party-list.
Of the 22 who voted for Suarez on Wednesday morning, 11 abstained from voting for the speakership on Monday: Abayon, Alonte-Naguiat, Arcillas, Bagatsing, Bertiz, Bravo, Cerafica, Cortuna, de Vera, Ferriol and Garbin.
Alonte, Arcillas, Bagatsing, Cerafica are from PDP-Laban, but did not vote for Alvarez for Speaker last Monday.
Three House members who abstained during the Wednesday voting for minority leader also abstained on Monday: Sharon Garin of Aambis-Owa party-list, Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list and Ma. Lourdes Aggabao of Isabela.