MANILA, Philippines – Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr may have gotten more votes than Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez but he's not confident he is the minority leader of the 17th Congress.
Based on House rules, the losing candidate of the Speakership race will automatically be the minority leader. Three congressmen fought for the House leadership position on Monday, July 25: Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, Baguilat, and Suarez.
Alvarez won by a landslide with 251 votes. Baguilat came in second with 8 votes, followed by Suarez with 7 votes. There were 21 lawmakers who abstained. Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco cast a “no vote”.
Traditionally, the second placer of the race becomes the minority leader but Baguilat said there was a sudden change of rules before the nomination started.
“Nakalagay po sa ating rules na kung sino ang boboto sa nanalong speaker, yun ang magiging mayorya. Kapag di ka bumoto sa nanalo, minority sila. So yung matitira, sila yung pipili kung sino ang kanilang magiging minority leader,” Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas’ said in response to Buhay Representative Lito Atienza when he asked how the minority leader would be chosen.
(It is stated in our rules that whoever votes for the winning [candidate for] Speaker will be the majority. If you don’t vote for him/her, you will be part of minority. So those who will form the minority will choose who will be their leader.)
Asked if there would be a minority leader before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Baguilat said he is unsure whether they will have time resolving the issue since there is no system in place.
“Are we going to have our own session, caucus muna (first)? There’s still no system yet,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Fariñas, for his part, defended that there was no new rule created.
“This is part of the Rules of the 16th Congress, which we adopted as the provisional rules of the 17th Congress. As can be seen during the interpellation of Representative Atienza, the rule was clearly explained and understood by all members before the voting started,” he told Rappler in a text message.
But Baguilat noted that during the 3-way race during the 16th Congress among Quezon City 4th District Representative Feliciano Belmonte, San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora, and Leyte 1st District Representative Martin Romualdez, Zamora automatically got the minority leadership, being the second placer.
Romualdez, together with those who voted for him as Speaker, formed an independent minority bloc.
But will Suarez be disqualified in the election of minority leader since he voted for Alvarez as House Speaker?
Albay Representative First District Edcel Lagman, who is part of the Liberal Party’s minority bloc, stressed that Suarez should be part of the majority.
"Baguilat is the second placer. He has been elected as the minority leader. That's it. And Danny Suarez is disqualified from being minority leader because he voted for Bebot Alvarez, and under the rules, he should be part of the majority," he said.
But Suarez countered in a phone interview: “Not exactly. Even Bebot Alvarez didn’t vote for anyone. He abstained. So is he a part of minority?”
According to House rules, those who abstained have the option of joining either the majority or the minority. – with reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com