A true Minority Leader for the House

Published July 19, 2019, 12:01 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

e-cartoon-jul-19-2019It all seemed so simple then. We had a two party-system before 1972 —the Nacionalsta Party  and the Liberal Party  — and whichever  party had the most members in the House of Representatives  elected the Speaker. The other  party  elected the Minority Leader.

Today  we  have a multi-party system and in the 18th Congress which will open on Monday, July  22, there  is no single party as majority  in the chamber. There are 84 PDP-Laban,  42 Nacionalista,  36 Nationalist People’s Coalition,  and 25 National Unity Party members. They  are  known  to be  pro-Duterte  solons and  together they hold  a majority of 187 in the 304-member Congress. They could not decide who among them would be Speaker, so that President  Duterte had to step in and make his suggestion  — Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano  of the NP for 15 months,  then Rep. Allan Lord Velasco of PDP-Laban  for the remaining  21 months.

There  is a similar problem  of leadership  among the many smaller  minority parties in the House.  There are 18  Liberal, 11 Lakas,  61 representing   various party-list organizations,  and  so many others  representing local  parties.  Who among them will now serve as Minority  Leader?

Rep. Edcel Lagman  of the LP, who led   a vocal opposition  group  known as the Magnificent 7 in the last Congress,  has expressed  concern  that the majority in the new Congress will try to also fill  the Minority Leader position, as it  did in the last Congress. The president  of the LP, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, has  also  added his view: “I believe that a strong minority is essential to our democracy,”  he said.

It is indeed  much  more  difficult  to  choose Majority and Minority  Leaders when so many parties  are involved. The  majority  parties got President Duterte to help them. The many minority   groups, however, have no one to turn to.

It is a truly difficult situation but the members of Congress must make a strong effort to stay true to the concept  of majority and minority leadership in  Congress  After  the 187 congressmen in the  four pro-Duterte  parties have chosen  the  Speaker,  they should  leave the rest — 117 – to select the Minority Leader.

It will not be easy to achieve this, as the majority  leadership  might want  tighter control of  House proceedings   so as to ensure  the swift passage of administration  bills.  But in the interest  of  the democratic ideal of free interaction between  the majority and  the minority,  the latter should  be allowed  to  elect their own Minority  Leader in the House.