In a brief but strongly-worded press statement released last Thursday afternoon, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman announced his resignation as House Minority Leader to give way to Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez. He described Suarez as “former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s anointed one.” Lagman also resigned from Lakas-CMD, the ruling party during Arroyo’s term.
The solon from Albay said he will be an independent fiscalizer of the Aquino administration and an advocate for what he describes as a “progressive and alternative agenda.” After being allied with the now-detained ex leader for years, Lagman now declares that he “cannot continue serving a political aggrupation that “follow blindly the importuning of former President Arroyo” instead of recognizing “a competent, militant, and responsible leadership.”
Lagman must have felt like Julius Caesar during the Ides of March. In a privilege speech after Arroyo was placed under hospital arrest for electoral sabotage in connection to the 2007 senatorial polls, he slammed the Aquino government for having “no single, credible, and competent evidence presented … to substantiate its fears and speculations that the former President is a flight risk.”
He also described Arroyo’s detention as illegal since the Supreme Court has not yet decided on the legality of the joint COMELEC-DOJ fact-finding body that filed the charges against the latter. A week after that speech, Lagman went as far as mentioning legendary Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in justifying a house arrest for Arroyo. If Lagman has been consistent in defending Arroyo before, he is also steadfast in attacking the present dispensation.
Lagman has criticized President Benigno Aquino III since the honeymoon period of his presidency. Two days after the infamous Manila hostage drama where eight Hong Kong nationals were killed, Lagman called on Aquino to fire three of his cabinet men, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo as well as spokespersons Ricky Carandang and Sonny Coloma for their “palpable incompetence” in handling the crisis.
In June last year, he led the minority lawmakers in attacking Aquino’s close buddies (labeled as “kakampi, kaklase, kabarilan”) for alleged cronyism. As the President marked his first year as in power, Lagman declared that 15 million Filipinos made a “mistake” in choosing Aquino. “Shibboleths and promises during the presidential campaign concealed and overshadowed his inadequacies,” Lagman said. And when 188 of his fellow House solons signed the Aquino-backed resolution seeking Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment, Lagman described the move as “the mother of all blackmails.”
But, despite his attacks on Aquino on essentially all fronts, they stood side-by-side on one controversial issue – the Reproductive Health bill. Last year, Aquino included the RH bill in his list of priority measures. When the Palace introduced clarificatory amendments to the RH bill, Lagman immediately pointed out that the measure wasn’t “watered down” since its salient features had been retained. During the 7th Annual Population and Development Media Awards, Lagman reiterated that “the voice of the people is the voice of God,” referring to surveys suggesting that a majority of Filipinos support the RH bill.
Lagman’s unflinching support for the Aquino-backed RH bill might have played a role in driving a wedge between him and Arroyo. In an interview with veteran journalist Raissa Robles, Lagman explained that his support for the bill will not wither just because of Aquino’s efforts to prosecute Arroyo, insisting that his RH advocacy and the issue surrounding Arroyo’s incarceration are not related.
Arroyo has not supported the bill when she was president, and as a lawmaker from Pampanga, she co-authored the “Protection of the Unborn Child Act of 2010,” considered an anti-RH measure. Other Arroyo allies like Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, Bacolod City Rep. Anthony Golez, and Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles (son of ex Speaker Prospero Nograles) are also opposed to the bill. Based on this policy issue alone, is it not surprising for Lagman to say that he is “not part of Arroyo’s inner circle”?
I have contributed this article to Kuro-Kuro.org. Click here to read the post.