MANILA - Administration critics at the Lower House have elevated the minority leadership contest to the Supreme Court.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat lost the minority leadership race to Quezon Rep Danilo Suarez, who was elected in a caucus of those who did not vote for House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Baguilat's group, led by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, contended that Baguilat, being the runner-up in the speakership election, should have been declared the minority leader.
Lagman told a press conference that the issue on " the premeditated marginalization or even demise of the House minority as engineered by the leadership of the supermajority is now with the Supreme Court for adjudication."
Lagman, one of the petitioners, disclosed that the petition praying for the recognition of Baguilat as minority leader is anchored on the following grounds:
1. Since Baguilat was the clear runner-up to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in the Speakership contest on 25 July 2016, by an unbroken tradition, he automatically becomes the Minority Leader because he defeated Rep. Danilo Suarez by a vote of 8 to 7, thus relegating Suarez as third placer.
2. Suarez was "elected" on 27 July 2016 by an aggrupation principally consisting of pseudo minority members who were directed by the leadership of the supermajority 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".
3. Under the last paragraph of Section 8 of Rule II, 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.
4. Suarez was disqualified to be minority leader because he belonged to the majority after voting for Speaker Alvarez.
5. Ten of those who "elected" Suarez as "minority leader" soon returned to the majority coalition, thus revealing the malevolent scheme to subvert the choice of a minority leader.
6. The separate election of the minority leader by members of the minority under the second paragraph of Section 8 of Article II of 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, which has not happened.
7. Suarez as the Majority's "minority leader" has utterly failed to discharge the role of the opposition.
8. 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 added, "from the very start we committed to media that we were going to bring the issue to the SC. We were still trying to figure out the necessary arguments, the arsenal for the petition, that's why we temporized the filing of the petition but the petition has been seasonably filed, 60 days after the recommission of the supermajority of Suarez as minority leader."
Lagman explained that the petition for mandamus would mandate that the leadership recognize Baguilat as the minority leader.
Lagman explained this cannot be considered a political question that is beyond the court.
"We have cited cases in the petition for mandamus that the political question will not apply more so because of the provision of the constitution which expanded the power of judicial review of the SC to include cases where respondents in the other political departments have abused their discretion."
Lagman stressed that Suarez failed to discharge his role as fiscalizer.
"You can just ask whether the so called minority leader has made any comment on the inclination of the president to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. He has not. That is the role of the opposition which he has not discharged,” Lagman pointed out.
“If you review the bills filed by the administration starting with House Bill 1 which is restoration of the death penalty, Mr. Suarez is a co-author of these administration measures. What kind of opposition would you expect from a sub-altern of the majority?
“There are several issues where the minority leader should have stood up and made a critical comment, but he has not done so.”
Lagman hopes the high court can act quickly on their petition.
"I hope the SC would be able to see too the importance of this petition with respect to current events."
Samar Rep. Raul Daza, however, doubts the Suarez group will let go easily.
"Tingin ko kapit tuko mga ito. Hindi lang sila kung 'di liderato ng house. Mayroong minority na sunud-sunuran sa supermajority," Daza said.