MANILA - Minority lawmakers have urged the Supreme Court (SC) to compel the House of Representatives to recognize ABS party-list Rep. Eugene de Vera as the lawful minority leader and recognize a new “duly-constituted” minority bloc.
In a 44-page petition, De Vera, joined by Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, who was ousted as House Speaker in July, former House Majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and other lawmakers accused the current House leadership of grave abuse of discretion in recognizing Quezon City 3rd District Rep. Danilo Suarez as the minority leader.
The petitioning lawmakers pointed out that Suarez could not be the leader of the minority bloc because he was “the first to sign” the manifesto of support for the installation of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as House Speaker replacing Alvarez on July 23, the day President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address.
They explained that De Vera should have assumed the top minority post because he was Deputy Minority Leader during Alvarez’s tenure.
Suarez was joined by 183 other lawmakers in the manifesto, including 13 members of the minority, all of whom voted with the majority to make Arroyo the chamber's leader.
“In voting for respondent GMA (Arroyo) as the winning candidate for Speaker of the HOR (House), respondent Suarez abandoned ipso facto his membership in the minority, thus making the most senior member of the minority, then Deputy Minority Leader petitioner De Vera, ipso facto acting Minority Leader," the petition read.
“The co-petitioners of [De Vera] had faithfully followed the rules of the HOR in transferring to the duly constituted minority headed by him as the acting minority leader, and pursuant to the same rules, conducted an election to elect him as the minority leader,” the petition read.
The petitioners pointed out that House Journal No. 4, dated July 30, 2018, was “conclusive proof” that Suarez is now part of the majority.
“With the permission of the chair, Majority Leader [Rolando] Andaya confirmed that the 184 members who unanimously voted for the lone and solitary candidate for the Speaker in the recent reorganization of the House, not in the initial constitution of the House as enumerated under Rule II of the amended Provisional Rules, constitute the majority,” the journal stated, according to the petition.
The petitioners also stressed that in July 2017, the high court, in the case of Baguilat, et al. vs Alvarez, et al., upheld Suarez’s “election” as it junked Baguilat’s similar petition.
They urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order and status quo ante order to direct Arroyo to sustain “the duly constituted minority” and direct Suarez to “cease and desist from performing the functions of the Minority Leader.”
Arroyo, Andaya and Suarez, were named respondents in the petition.
The lawmakers also urged the SC to recognize them as the “duly constituted” House minority.
The petitioners stressed that the proper constitution of the committees and membership of the minority are of “transcendental importance” since the House could not hold sessions and conduct business unless a minority member is present.