Lagman blasts Suarez's 'anointment' as minority leader

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 25 2016 03:41 PM


Albay Representative Edcel Lagman on Monday scored the "anointment" of Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez as the minority leader as a bastardization of the election process of congress leaders.

"That is bastardizing the election process in the selection of a minority leader because we need an independent minority," he told ANC.

READ: Suarez confident he will bag minority leadership

"A legislative assembly should have a constructive fiscalizer, so that the policies of government will be the result of an extensive debate, not an orchestrated soliloquy," he said.

Lagman said Suarez is not an independent minority because he "encamped himself in Davao shortly after the election to get the anointment of the new administration as the cooperative minority," and met with incoming House Speaker Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez.

"This will be a sham election and it will be a co-opted minority. I call it ‘the majority’s minority leader’," he said.

To oppose the election of Suarez, Lagman said he and his allies are putting up an "independent caucus" and will will be fielding their own candidate for the speakership in hopes that he will land at second place to clinch the minority leadership.

"We are doing this in order to have a symbolic stand that we should not be a rubber stamp congress, that our colleagues should not allow themselves to be used as pawns in electing a company union," he said.

Joining them is Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Suarez's own party.

"Toby will not allow himself to be prostituted, that’s why he will not accept any assistance from the super majority. Hawak na nila ang majority, gusto pa nilang hawakan ang minority?," said Lagman, adding Tiangco may be heading towards leaving UNA eventually.

Neither Lagman nor Tiangco will be the candidate from the caucus, but Lagman said they have already reached a consensus who it will be. Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat, Jr. is a very possible candidate, he said.

This is after Quezon City Representative and former House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte withdrew from the race. Lagman maintained, "we cannot have a default."

"We should be able to stand up and put up a candidate who will be able to a symbol of our crusade to have checks and balances in the House of Representatives and to have a deliberate discussion on bills and policy directions," he said.

Lagman also believes they have enough numbers to get the house minority leadership if they were to have the vote from the twelve members of the Liberal Party who have opted to be in the minority, and three party-list representatives.

He said Suarez will be left with only six votes as three will not vote for him "because Toby is no longer there," six have "already left," and three are party-list representatives.

"If you think—and I think that is the basis, the base of Danny Suarez’s votes—a total of only six, then if he gets more than six, then that will be the flying voters from the other coalition partners," he said.

Lagman said, the popularity of President Rodrigo Duterte definitely puts pressure on them, but the president's high trust rating and strong following must also be used to "rein his political lieutenants" and soldier them into making true his promise of change."

"[Duterte] said in his inaugural address, the loss of confidence of people, the erosion of that confidence in our leaders must be stopped, and there should be change. If the change is to be permanent and substantial, it should come from us, within us," he cited.

Lagman emphasized that Suarez's election as the minority leader runs contrast to Duterte's vision.

"This scheme, this sinister plot to elect the majority’s minority leader is not the change the president has invoked in his inaugural address. We are even appealing to our president to reverse the situation and tell his people that that is not the genuine change he has been talking about," he said.

The behavior exhibited by Alvarez in anointing Suarez, he said, signals the intent to build a rubber stamp congress for the Duterte administration.

"That is the direction because if you control the majority and the minority, what else is there but a rubber stamp?," he said.

He also questioned Alvarez's statement that Congress must not investigate in aid of legislation.

"That is an inherent power of a legislative assembly, to conduct inquiries. It will only be in aid of legislation after the investigation is over, because at that time, you would know if there is really a need for remedial legislation, not before," he said.