• Can Speaker Alvarez walk the talk?



    FORMER President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now congresswoman of Pampanga, is expected to vote against the reimposition of the death penalty. Will Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez move to oust her as deputy speaker for going against the administration-backed bill?

    On Tuesday, last week, Alvarez aired the threat to unseat any deputy speaker or committee chairman who will oppose the measure. Who are these persons? Except for a few including GMA, they couldn’t be positively identified as yet because the voting on the bill on second reading last Wednesday was by ayes and nays, not by roll call.

    A motion by Bhai party-list Rep. Lito Atienza for nominal voting or roll call vote was defeated, so Alvarez could not yet prepare his “hit list.” Actually, nominal voting on second reading is rarely practiced. However, it’s unavoidable in voting on third and final reading. Members will be called in alphabetical order to record their vote. It will be easy then for Alvarez to know whom to unseat. The nagging question now is, will he?

    Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay is daring him to make good his threat or else nobody will take his words seriously in the future. Alvarez, however, might face leadership problems in the future should he do so.

    The fact is Deputy Speaker Macapagal still enjoys some following in the House. They surely wouldn’t relish her being kicked out of her post. It’s also a fact that the passage of the poorly and hastily crafted bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty is assured of passage in the House. Thus, I see no reason why Alvarez should be dictatorial on this issue. He should allow a conscience vote on an issue that involves life and death. There’s no need for him to flex his muscles and threaten those who’ll oppose this single issue.

    The “super majority” in the House has already run roughshod over the opponents of the bill. Of the 25 registered to interpellate, only seven were recognized. The last two were not even given the one hour allotted to each “because the issue had already been discussed exhaustively and the questions were repetitive.” As far as I know, parliamentary rules are primarily meant to protect the rights of the minority, not to impose the “tyranny of numbers.”

    Most of the 32 Liberal congressmen are predicted to vote against the reimposition of capital punishment. The senior members were given only minor committees when they agreed to join the “super majority”. Former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, for instance, was given the chairmanship of the committee on the West Philippine Sea. Perhaps, only their pride will be hurt should they lose the second-rate committees.

    Tonight, the bill is expected to be approved on third and final reading by the House. There’s no way its opponents can prevent this inevitability. Even a roll call vote or nominal voting can’t delay it.

    At the Batasan, of which Atienza was a member as Manila representative, the opposition regularly resorted to nominal voting and explanation of their votes not only to delay the passage of a measure but also to put on record the reasons behind their vote. Well, under the Rules of Procedure adopted by the 17th Congress, this is no longer so.

    Now, the explanation of votes on third reading is allowed only after the announcement by the secretary general of the results of the nominal voting. Oh well, this change in the rules is certainly most welcome for congressmen with the family name of Zamora and Zubiri. They can leave immediately after their names are called in the nominal voting without waiting to hear the explanation of votes.

    Women’s Day
    Lady legislators took the center stage at the House Monday as the country celebrates “Women’s Day.” A special guest was Miss Philippines Universe Maxine Medina who dazzled everybody. No wonder many congressmen wanted to have their picture taken with her.

    As far as beauty is concerned, I’ll pick Taguig Rep. Pia Cayetano anytime.

    Rep. Geraldine Roman, the first transgender member of Congress, was among those who actively played a part in the day’s events.

    Rep. Estrelita Suansing from my home province of Nueva Ecija, made heads turn with her unique terno fashioned from a “banig.” I noticed that she had difficulty walking. I imagine she had greater difficulty seating.

    Personal note
    I want to greet former Chairman Tong Payumo of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and the Bases Conversion Development Authority who celebrated his birthday yesterday.

    It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to join him and his family and friends at the celebration at the Sinagtala resort in Orani, Bataan, because of health reasons.



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