By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman yesterday said Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez should stop clinging to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and desist from running to her for help in furthering his political agenda.
“It should be Suarez who must stop involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in his struggle and should not use her hospital suite as his campaign headquarters. Suarez must wean himself from the former president and desist from running to her for help,” he said.
Lagman earlier accused Arroyo, Suarez, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, and Occidental Mindoro Rep. Amelita Villarosa of plotting to oust him during a meeting last Wednesday at the former leader’s hospital suite at the Veterans’ Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where she is detained on charges of electoral sabotage.
A source at the VMMC confirmed that at least 10 congressmen allies of Arroyo again visited her at the VMMC on Friday.
“They (congressmen) arrived separately but caught up with each other,” the source said.
It was not clear though what the lawmakers talked about.
According to the source, the former president’s son, Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Mikey Arroyo, was also there.
Suarez is supposed to replace Lagman this month in a term-sharing agreement for the post of House minority leader they forged before the 15th Congress opened in 2010.
But Suarez expressed surprise that Lagman suddenly reneged on the agreement and wanted to cling to his post even if members of the minority bloc already earlier voted to uphold the term-sharing pact.
Suarez on Friday said he would seek a vote on the leadership post of the minority bloc at the lower chamber at the start of the plenary session tomorrow.
He also appealed to Lagman not to drag Arroyo into their spat, as she had nothing to do with the issue.
“The former president has nothing to do with that (Lagman’s ouster). She has so many problems. She only said that if there’s an agreement for term sharing then that must be honored. But that was sometime in November,” Suarez said.
Lagman issued a statement yesterday that he wanted “to continue providing the minority in the House of Representatives a competent, credible and conscientious leadership,” adding that “an absolute majority” of opposition lawmakers endorsed his retention in a resolution signed last December.
He said Suarez “must not disparage and demean the imprimatur of his colleagues who did not only express support for my leadership but collectively want me to continue leading the opposition.”
“Suarez must be using a derelict abacus in counting 19 supporters (in the opposition),” Lagman said, reiterating the term-sharing agreement was applicable only in the event that he was elected Speaker.
He said members of the minority can overturn such an agreement.
Suarez, on the other hand, said Lagman appeared to be comfortable with the Aquino administration, but he wished the Albay lawmaker would remain in the opposition bloc.
Arroyo’s camp declined to comment on the issue.
Other lawmakers, however, are speculating that Lagman must have been already co-opted by the Aquino administration since he is also known to be friends with Presidential Political Affairs Adviser Ronald Llamas since their days in the leftist movement.
Gonzales: Lagman welcome
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales said Lagman is assured of a prominent leadership post in the House of Representatives if he decides to bolt the 29-member opposition bloc and join the administration coalition, a leader of the chamber said yesterday.
“If he (Lagman) has the intention, if he so decides to join the majority, I’m sure he would be given a position commensurate to his expertise and experience,” Gonzales told The STAR. “He is certainly most welcome.”
But Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez balked at suggestions to reward Lagman with a cushy post in the majority as some have suggested that the opposition leader be given a post of deputy speaker or a chairmanship of a major House committee.
He said Lagman’s loyalty to the administration would be questionable since he was with the opposition bloc for a long time.
“He (Lagman) must start as a foot soldier (in the administration coalition). We (in the majority bloc) worked hard to help the administration and he has not yet proven his loyalty,” Rodriguez said.
Gonzales, however, disagreed, saying, “It is not as if loyalty is a prerequisite for good legislative work.” - With Reinir Padua