MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya said expelled Arts, Business, and Science Professionals (ABS) representative Eugene de Vera "distanced" himself from his party when the latter filed his certificate of candidacy for Marikina 2nd District congressman in the 2019 elections.
On Tuesday, November 20, Andaya defended the House's decision to drop De Vera from the roll of House members. Andaya himself ordered De Vera's removal during the session on Monday, November 19, citing communication from ABS regarding the party's expulsion of De Vera.
"Now, you have here a unique situation in which Congressman De Vera filed for a certificate of candidacy [in] Marikina for congressman. In effect, once you have done that, you have abandoned your being a member [of your party]," said Andaya, who is also Camarines Sur 1st District congressman.
"That's totally inconsistent! How can you represent a nationwide party-list na nationwide ang constituency mo, and now, magfa-file sa isang distrito lang, na ang ire-represent mo, isang distrito lang? So doon pa lang, wala na tayong pag-uusapan. 'Yang mga legalities na 'yan, 'di na po kailangang daanan diyan. Doon lang sa praktikal na aspeto na 'yun: Iniwan na niya 'yung kanyang party-list," he added.
(That's totally inconsistent! How can you represent a nationwide party with a nationwide constituency, and now, you filed to represent just one district? So it's clear from there, we have nothing to discuss. Those legalities, we don't have to go through them. Just look at the practical aspect: He already left his party.)
During the session on Tuesday, Andaya also pointed out that De Vera ran for Marikina congressman as an independent candidate. He argued this is also proof that De Vera already abandoned the ABS party.
Why was De Vera expelled? On September 7, ABS passed a resolution expelling De Vera from the party over "loss of confidence," as the embattled lawmaker failed to consult with his party mates when he challenged the minority leadership of Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez, a close ally of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. (READ: Minority leadership row triggers De Vera's removal from ABS party)
De Vera is part of the bloc of ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who filed a case against Suarez before the Supreme Court.
ABS said that by going head-to-head with Suarez, De Vera "necessarily dragged the name of the ABS party-list without prior consultations with and consent/approval of the members of the national executive committee."
How else did Andaya defend De Vera's removal? Andaya further argued that it is the party, not the party-list congressman, that is elected into the House of Representatives.
"Let me put it in a very simple and understandable way: Ang party-list, ang nakaupo dito sa Kongreso at 'yung prino-proclaim ng Comelec (Commission on Elections), 'yung party-list, hindi 'yung nominee ng party-list. So ang member dito is the party-list, and that person, kung sino man siya, is merely a nominee of that party-list that he or she represents," said Andaya.
(Let me put it in a very simple and understandable way: The party is the one sitting in Congress and it is the one proclaimed by the Comelec, not the nominee of the party. So the member here is the party, and that person, whoever he or she may be, is merely a nominee of the party that he or she represents.)
De Vera, however, called the manner by which he was removed "unconstitutional." He said there are only two ways by which a party-list congressman may be removed: Through a quo warranto case filed before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) and expulsion with the concurrence of two-thirds of all members of the House.
Election lawyer Emil Marañon III also explained in a Rappler piece that in Abayon vs HRET, the SC "clarified that it is the party-list representative who is elected into office, not the party-list group or organization he represents."
That SC ruling upheld Section 17, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which says the HRET is the "sole judge" all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective members.
"By analogy with the cases of district representatives, once the party or organization of the party-list nominee has been proclaimed and the nominee has taken his oath and assumed office as member of the House of Representatives, the Comelec's jurisdiction over election contests relating to his qualifications ends and the HRET's own jurisdiction begins," said the SC. – Rappler.com