Minority leadership row triggers De Vera's removal from ABS party

MANILA, Philippines – The Arts, Business, and Science Professionals (ABS) party removed lawyer Eugene de Vera as its congressman in the House of Representatives after the latter challenged the minority leadership of Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez.

Majority Leader Rolando Andaya ordered De Vera's removal from the roll of House members during the plenary session on Monday, November 19, citing communication that the House leadership received from ABS regarding the expulsion of De Vera.

Andaya said the party's second nominee Ulysses Garces will replace De Vera.

Andaya's office sent reporters a copy of ABS' Resolution No. 2018-3 dated September 7, explaining 4 reasons for expelling De Vera. 

The resolution said the party had a "loss of confidence" in De Vera, because challenging Suarez "necessarily dragged the name of the ABS party-list without prior consultations with and consent/approval of the members of the national executive committee."

De Vera, who is part of the independent minority bloc of ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, questioned Suarez's minority leadership before the Supreme Court (SC). The Alvarez bloc insists De Vera should be the minority leader, not Suarez.

Suarez had voted in favor of Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during the House coup that unseated Alvarez and replaced him with Arroyo as Speaker.

In its resolution, ABS said De Vera supposedly failed to report to and consult with the party president and national executive committee over affairs that will "affect and drag the name" of the party. ABS also said De Vera failed to perform his functions as secretary-general and had a "loss of focus" as congressman representing the party.

But De Vera does not agree, arguing he had been fulfilling his party duties.

"In fact, saka nga lang sumikat ang ABS party-list no'ng ako na ang congressman eh!… I have lost my focus daw. It's not correct because my focus, if you look at the bills and resolutions that I have filed, nando'n po lahat ang aking trabaho," said De Vera.

(In fact, the ABS party became known only when I became its congressman!… They said I lost my focus. That's not correct because if you look at the bills and resolutions that I have filed, that constitutes my body of work.)

He said his removal as congressman is "unconstitutional," arguing that a lawmaker may only be removed through two ways: 

Fariñas defends De Vera

Former majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who drafted the SC case against Suarez, called the dropping of De Vera from the roll of members a "clear violation of the Constitution."

Like De Vera's arguments at the plenary, Fariñas cited the House rules he helped draft as well jurisprudence to defend De Vera. (READ: No, Kabayan, you can't just kick out Harry Roque)

Fariñas cited Section 4, Rule II of the House rules, which states that when the validity of the proclamation of a sitting congressman is questioned, he or she will remain a member of the House pending "final and executory judgment on or resolution of the question over the proclamation of the member by the appropriate judicial or administrative bodies."

Fariñas also said Article VI of the 1987 Constitution states that the HRET "shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective members."

"Thus, the qualification of Rep De Vera as the party-list representative falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the HRET," said Fariñas.

De Vera said he plans to continue objecting to his removal during the plenary session on Tuesday, November 20. He said he may even bring the case before the SC. – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.