Quimbo group to file minority leadership protest vs. Suarez, others next week

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 9) — The House minority leadership of Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez will be questioned at the Supreme Court next week, a lawmaker said Thursday.

Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo said their group's protest will be filed between Wednesday and Friday. Its respondents will include Suarez, Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, Jr. and even House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"We're confident the court will rule in our favor," Quimbo told CNN Philippines' The Source. "The respondents will be the Speaker, Majority Leader, and the former Minority Leader Danilo Suarez."

Quimbo was the elected leader of what he himself calls the genuine minority, a group of about 26 lawmakers who either abstained from or voted against Arroyo's speakership.

He belongs to one of two groups questioning the legitimacy of Suarez's leadership. The other is the camp of ousted House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and former Majority Leader Rudy Fariñas, which picked ABS-Partylist Representative Eugene De Vera as their minority leader. Their group also plans to turn to the Supreme Court.

READ: Three groups claim to be real House Minority bloc

But the House of Representatives on Tuesday, after a motion by Andaya, elected to let Suarez stay as Minority Leader. However, Suarez supported Arroyo's bid for speaker — and House rules say those who vote for a winning speaker belong to the majority.

In an interview with The Source, Suarez previously cited personal reasons for wanting to keep his position — particularly because he wants to retire there, and he wants to keep his office space.

"Frankly, he can have his office. We're not interested in getting the physical office," said Quimbo. "It's not a personal choice... It's not a matter for personal aggrandizement."

Suarez's critics maintain that he cannot provide a check and balance for the House if he sided with the Speaker. Suarez argued that he can, and said he would just be "constructive" instead of "destructive."

Quimbo pointed out that Suarez even announced he would move the majority, only to go back on his word. His camp believes that Suarez keeping his post is a way to protect the majority and "seal every possible opposition."

"The way it goes is no legislation takes place unless the minority is given the opportunity to question it. Meaning, you're part of the process," he explained. "If you're an independent, they can just set you aside."

Suarez himself has not denied his close ties with the former President. In 2009, when Arroyo was criticized for a lavish dinner at Washington D.C. during her term, Suarez claimed he payed the $15,000 (around ₱795,000) bill.

While Quimbo is confident the Supreme Court would side with them, he also acknowledged that they may run out of time. He noted that a previous protest on minority leadership raised by Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat spent "a year and a day" at the court. The Congress has less than a year before it adjourns ahead of the mid-term elections in May 2019.

"We're hopeful the Supreme Court can decide early," he said. "Be that as it may, it's important that we be able to put it because we cannot have this being repeated again."

Until that decision, the Quimbo said they would still act as a genuine minority bloc — even if they do not have that title.

"While we will not have the title as far as the majority is concerned, but we will perform our functions as doing the checks and balance," he said. "There's just 10 months left, but we will make it count."