House supermajority rejects Baguilat's claim as minority leader

MANILA, Philippines – The Lower House remains without a minority leader after Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas, on behalf of the 251 members of the supermajority bloc, rejected claims that Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr nabbed the position. 

“You have 21 who did not elect for the speaker and 8 who voted a losing candidate for speaker and 7 who voted for another losing candidate for speaker. And then all of a sudden you say, ‘Viola! The losing candidate is our minority leader?’ E magic na po ‘yun! (That’s magic already!)” said Fariñas during the second session day on Tuesday, July 26. 

“Napag-usapan ba natin sa botohan na ‘yun kung sino ang magiging minority leader? Hindi po. Speaker lang po ang pinagbobotohan dun. Kaya ‘wag po kayong magpalusot na ‘yung natalong speaker ay siya na ang minority leader!” he added. 

(Did we discuss in the election yesterday who will be minority leader? No. We voted on who will be the speaker. So don’t make excuses that a losing candidate for speaker becomes the minority leader!)

Fariñas was responding to a privilege speech by Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman, who said Baguilat should be recognized as minority leader because he was the runner-up in the race for House speaker. (READ: Congressman Baguilat: I am the House minority leader)

“It is indubitable and uncontestable that Representative Baguilat Jr is the new minority leader… As the runner-up candidate for speaker, by tradition and practice he is automatically the minority leader, having garnered more votes than the other candidate for speaker, the Honorable [Quezon 3rd District Representative] Danilo Suarez,” said Lagman.

In the 3-way race for speaker, Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez emerged as the winner with 251 votes. Baguilat came in second with 8 votes followed by Suarez with 7 votes.  

Alvarez abstained from voting, Baguilat voted for himself, but Suarez voted for Alvarez. (READ: Still no minority leader for House?)

Lagman previously alleged that the supermajority is in cahoots with Suarez for him to lead a “subservient” minority, which both Alvarez and Fariñas denied.

Northern Samar District 1 Representative Raul Daza and Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco interpellated Lagman, but only to support his arguments. Daza and Lagman voted for Baguilat as speaker.

Tiangco, Suarez’s former party mate at the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), registered a “no vote.” Tiangco resigned as UNA president in protest of the so-called “game fixing” for the minority leader position between the supermajority and Suarez.

UNA members Buhay Representative Lito Atienza and Kabayan Representative Harry Roque interpellated Lagman to refute his claims.

Rules vs traditions?

In his speech, Lagman argued:

Fariñas on Tuesday said the results of the speakership race cannot be used as basis for the selection of the minority leader if House rules, and not just tradition, would be followed.

He cited Section 8, Rule 2 of the 16th Congress adopted provisionally by the 17th Congress, which states: “Members who vote for the winning candidate for Speaker shall constitute the Majority in the House and they shall elect from themselves the Majority Leader… The Minority shall be elected by the Members of the Minority and can be changed, at any time, by a majority vote of all the Minority members.” 

So meron pa ring susunod na eleksyon. Ang pinagbobotohan dun [kahapon] ay speaker. Ano ba kayo? Ang liwa-liwanag e! (So there is still another election. What was voted upon yesterday was for the speaker. It was crystal clear!). You were here yesterday. You should have now objected what you now call the opinion of the majority floor leader which was adopted by the body,” said Fariñas. 

He also reiterated his opinion on the floor made a day earlier when he said that anyone who did not vote for Alvarez for speaker, even the ones who abstained, automatically becomes part of the minority.

These de factor minority bloc members are set to hold a meeting on Wednesday at 10:00 am to select their next leader.

Meanwhile, Suarez said he still believes his vote for Alvarez did not disqualify him to become minority leader.

"Not exactly. Even Bebot Alvarez didn't vote for anyone. He abstained. So is he a part of minority?" he said. – 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.

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