By Ellson Quismorio
The usually meek Davao City 1st district Rep. Karlo Nograles was forced to put his foot down during the first day of the House budget hearings when a debate on the Minority issue threatened to derail the proceedings. And put his foot down, he did.
It began when Nograles, in his capacity as Appropriations Committee chairman, finished his interpellation of Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) officials Tuesday in connection with their presentation of the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.
Nograles was about to call on the next interpelator, Minority Leader, Quezon 3rd district Rep. Danilo Suarez, when Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay’s 1st district made a point of order regarding “some housekeeping concerns.”
“Considering that the House adjourned yesterday (Tuesday) without resolving who would compose the Minority, then how would you now reckon the prioritization of any Minority [congressmen] in the interpellation [of resource persons?]” asked Lagman, knowing full well that Nograles was about to recognize Suarez.
Lagman is part of the 24-member, Liberal Party (LP)-dominated bloc in the House of Representatives that’s claiming to be the real Minority opposite the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban)-led Majority.
It can be recalled that 184 of these Majority congressmen last July 23 elected Pampanga 2nd district Representative and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the new Speaker, replacing Davao del Norte 1st district Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.
Lagman has been claiming that the 17-strong Suarez faction–the recognized Minority during the Alvarez Speakership but was a backer of Arroyo’s rise to power–basically ousted themselves as Minority and are now part of the re-aligned Majority under Arroyo.
However, House rules say the Speaker (Arroyo) must recognize who the Minority is, and so far she has not spoken on the matter.
Sensing that the budget hearing was about to turn into an endless back-and-forth between the Minority wannabes–like what has been witnessed at the plenary the past few days–Nograles made it clear to the panel that he was having none of it.
“I will do it like this and I would not care to even interpret the rules, or make any rulings, whatever, because that belongs to the Speaker and the Majority Leader,” Nograles told Lagman.
“Let me interpret the rules this way because this is how I will conduct this committee hearing, because I’m chairman of this committee: It’s up to you, individually, if you want to consider yourself a Majority member or a Minority member, you just let us know and we’ll put you in that classification. Thank you,” said the Ateneo law school graduate.
Budget hearings won’t be bogged down
When a solon attempted to extend the discussion on the Minority issue, an even sterner Nograles again took the microphone.
“This listing [of interpellators] will have no bearing in the decision of who becomes Majority and who becomes Minority. I will not be bogged down. This committee will not be bogged down by those issues. That doesn’t belong here, that belongs to the plenary,” he said.
“I will go by the listed names on the basis of first-come, first-serve. I already have a list. You want to go to the Majority? By all means. You want to go to the Minority? By all means,” added Nograles, who is on his third year as head of the Appropriations Committee.