HOW can there be check and balance when the minority is also the majority?
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman raised this question yesterday as he assailed what he called the “company union” system at the House of Representatives.
Lagman said a small group of majority congressmen are “masquerading” as members of the minority bloc following the election of Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco.
The opposition congressman said the majority in the House consists of two groups: “The more numerous super majority and a smaller aggrupation of majority allies who masquerade as (the) ‘minority.’”
Lagman said the “disgruntled” majority members who backed ex-speaker Alan Peter Cayetano “cannot strengthen the authentic minority in the House of Representatives because they come with hurt egos and without ideology, conviction and commitment as oppositionists.”
By “authentic minority,” Lagman was referring to himself and a few fellow opposition lawmakers.
“They (Cayetano allies) might as well join the anointed ‘minority’ since they come from the same partisan corral,” said the veteran lawmaker, referring to the minority bloc now led by minority leader Stephen Paduano of Abang Lingkod party-list who is a known Velasco supporter.
Lagman said the handpicking by the majority leadership of the “minority leader” was formalized in the 17th Congress and is perpetuated in the 18th Congress but the system was actually adopted in the 16th Congress under the Aquino administration when San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora became the minority leader instead of then Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, who was with the opposition at the time.
Paduano, who was elected minority leader after Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. jumped to the majority bloc, said his 21-man group can still act as a fiscalizer even if he is a Velasco ally and his track record can speak for itself.
“Let the record tell, the record of the minority is there,” he said. “Though it’s not perfect, you know how we fought (with the majority) on issues, on bills and issues which we believe should be opposed.”
The lawmaker, who is a former commander of the RPA-ABB, admitted that he was among those who voted for Velasco and joined him in his meetings with Cayetano and President Duterte.
Paduano said he was not constrained to join the majority despite voting for the new Speaker because only the speaker’s position was declared vacant prior to Velasco’s election.
Section 8 of House rules which states that “[m]embers who vote for the winning candidate for Speaker shall constitute the Majority in the House and they shall elect from among themselves the Majority Leader.”
Paduano cited the case of then minority leader Danilo Suarez who remained the minority leader in the second half of the 17th Congress despite voting for then speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Rest assured that the minority will be a fiscalizer and balancing group in the House especially on the legislation work in the House,” said the lawmaker.
Paduano said the minority bloc should be given positions in the leadership of the committee on public accounts which he said traditionally belongs to the minority.
“(It’s) by tradition, by practice,” Paduano said. “We will negotiate on this (with the new House leadership). But of course, as I’ve said, at the very least, we should have a vice-chair, one or two vice-chairs coming from the minority or a co-chair.”