Despite voting for Velasco as speaker, new minority leader vows to be a fiscalizer

Xave Gregorio ( – October 21, 2020 – 1:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — The new leader of the minority bloc in the House of Representatives vows that they will continue being fiscalizers in the chamber, even if he had voted for Rep. Lord Allan Velasco (Marinduque) to be the new speaker of the lower house.

In a briefing with House reporters on Wednesday, newly-minted House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen “Caraps” Paduano (Abang Lingkod party-list) admitted to being one of the 186 lawmakers who elected Velasco to the helm of the House in an unprecedented session outside of Batasang Pambansa.

Paduano was also with the Velasco faction when they and the group backing then-Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano met in Malacañang before President Rodrigo Duterte to settle the term-sharing question.

“I believe he has all the right to be the speaker of the House,” Paduano said. “I support Lord Velasco because I support this institution.”

Rule II, Section 8 of the House rules provides that “members who vote for the winning candidate for speaker shall constitute the majority in the House.”

If this were to be followed, Paduano should be part of the majority bloc. 

Masquerading as minority?

But Paduano’s staying in the minority despite having voted for the new speaker is not without precedent.

In 2018, then-Minority Leader Danilo Suarez campaigned and voted for then-Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to take the top post in Batasan during the coup against then-Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. 

Suarez still managed to keep his post — something which two factions of lawmakers, one led by an alliance of opposition lawmakers and another led by the group of Alvarez allies, questioned up to the Supreme Court.

The retention of Suarez as minority leader despite having voted for Macapagal-Arroyo was defended by then-Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, who said that Rule II, Section 8 of the House rules does not apply as the leadership change did not involve the entire organization of the chamber.

Paduano also cited this, saying that only the speaker of the House was changed, and not the entire leadership of the chamber.

Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay) continued to accuse the House minority bloc of “masquerading,” saying that they are just a “smaller aggrupation of majority allies.”

Lagman has refused to join the minority bloc since the 17th Congress as he deemed that its leadership and members were handpicked by the House majority.

But for Paduano, the records will show that the House minority has not been co-opted.

“Let the record show how the minority performed since the 17th Congress and now the 18th Congress,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “You know how we fought against issues in the House.”

Priority measures

He also said that it is important to have rapport with the speaker to ensure that the minority bloc’s priority measures are tackled.

“Rest assured that the minority will be a fiscalizer and a balancing group in the House,” he said.

Among the priorities of the House minority, Paduano said, is the inquiry into the implementation of the rice tariffication law.

Aside from this, he said that the minority is also negotiating with the majority bloc to get seats in the House committees on public accounts, ethics and other major panels.

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