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House rules.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas (PDP-Laban) and Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo (Liberal Party) are both 'casualties' in the July 23 coup plot at the House of Representatives that successfully installed former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) as Speaker replacing Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon 'Bebot' Alvarez (PDP-Laban secretary-general).

Farinas was removed as House majority leader while Quimbo was one of the House deputy speakers. The two lawmakers considered themselves out of the House leadership hierarchy following the ouster of Alvarez as Speaker. The tumultuous ouster of the erstwhile Speaker marred the state of the nation address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte at the joint opening session of the Senate and the Lower House traditionally being held at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City.

Eventually, the Speakership of GMA was officially entered into the records of the 17th Congress convening on its third and last regular sessions. It was no less than Farinas who initiated during the next session day the House Resolution to officially recognize the election of the new Speaker to put the House order of business. Thus, the 'rump sessions' that installed Speaker GMA before and after the SONA of President Duterte were now legitimized.

The votes of the 180 members from the 'super majority' were attached as signatories to the House Resolution that declared vacant the Speaker's seat and installing GMA as the new Speaker replacing Alvarez.

Originally, pro-GMA House solons have asked Farinas to join them in the ouster of Alvarez so he can be retained as House majority leader. Farinas recalled having got wind about the plans to remove Alvarez and be replaced by GMA as early as March this year. Or this was after GMA was among those stripped of their House posts. She was then one of the House deputy majority leaders when she voted against President Duterte's pet bill to restore the Death Penalty law.

Farinas also recalled this was the same time when Alvarez got into a big fight with the President's equally feisty daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte who was organizing their local Hugpong sa Pagbabago to become a national political party.

A veteran lawmaker, Farinas decided to stick it out with Alvarez. So, a former GMA Budget Secretary and now Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. was subsequently elected to become the new House majority leader.

Although the Speakership was settled, a squabble as to who will become the new House minority issue broke out among those who did not vote and abstained. And that found both Farinas and Quimbo on the same side but also at opposite ends in challenging the retention of Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez as House minority leader.

Both Farinas and Quimbo questioned Suarez being retained as House minority leader when the latter was among the principal characters that plotted and voted for the ouster of Alvarez to install GMA as Speaker. Farinas invoked the succession rules under the House committee on rules which he previously chaired as majority leader.

Quimbo, on the other hand, invoked the intent and purity of the post of minority leader as someone representing the opposition in Congress. In this case, the LP bloc along with 25 other like-minded opposition who did not vote for Speaker GMA.

Farinas and Quimbo were my guests at my Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Wednesday. Farinas came all the way from Headstart TV talk show of Karen Davila aired earlier that same day. This was a day after Quimbo previously guested also at the same TV talk show.

Quimbo later tweets in reply to @KarenDavila in reaction to Farinas who told the ANC emcee that the LP solon cannot claim as minority when the latter has not even resigned yet as deputy majority leader: 'WRONG. I have clearly resigned when I wrote the Speaker that I had accepted to lead the minority. It's like writing your spouse 'I've decided to shack UP with someone else.' That's a clear resignation without using the words.'

At my Kapihan sa Manila Bay, they insisted anew their respective claims should get the rightful recognition as House minority bloc. Farinas and Quimbo met face-to-face and tried but failed to settle still the issue even as they showed their camps' respective letters sent and stamped as received by the office of Speaker GMA.

Farinas' letter was dated July 26 while Quimbo's letter was dated July 25. This is not to mention which groups have the numbers. Definitely, Suarez who has 12 of his loyal disciples are surely outnumbered by Quimbo's (26) and of Farinas (23). Do the math.

During our Kapihan, Farinas and Quimbo cited the legal stand of their assertion as in conformity with their internal rules that only members of the minority bloc could elect their own leader. Farinas and Quimbo agreed to vigorously oppose the plenary recognition given during their session last Monday to still recognize Suarez as House minority leader.

Both Farinas and Quimbo warned that such recognition of Suarez could weaken the House as an institution should Speaker GMA refuse to respect their own rules on minority leadership. Worse case scenario, they warned would be bills approved by the House might be rendered infirm if Suarez stays on as minority leader. 'Fruits of the poisonous tree is poison,' Farinas wisecracked.

Speaking for his group, Farinas hopes Speaker GMA would see the light of day sooner than later. If not, he said, he will force the hands of Speaker GMA to act one way or the other so that they can bring this House minority issue before the Supreme Court (SC) again for judicial determination.

The two gentlemen-lawmakers shook hands to seal their deal to respect the SC ruling should either one of them would be upheld as the legitimate House minority bloc. Do we see term-sharing between the two groups?

True to his vow, Farinas announced their group that included Alvarez yesterday elected ABS party-list Representative Eugene De Vera as the new leader of the House minority.

That is, if Speaker GMA will remove Suarez and respect the House rules on minority leadership.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Aug 3, 2018
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