Perhaps, we should consider House attendance as one of the criteria for choosing our local district representatives in Congress.
Ist is a sign of conscientiousness and professionalism that assure a House representative’s constituents that he or she is up there asserting their voice.
It may sound contrived and simplistic to think that congressmen actually voice out our concerns and wishes above personal interests.
But being habitually absent during House sessions amid crucial stages of legislation smacks of laziness and insensitiveness on the part of the lawmakers.
That is why it is disappointing and frustrating to find out that the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City has been nearly empty during the last five work days since the 16th Congress resumed session on July 27, coinciding with Noynoy Aquino’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA).
So for two weeks since the President’s empty lip service, Congress has held a “ghost session” with barely 30 members in attendance.
“How can we have business here if there are only five congressmen?” Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza pointed out during an interview in my radio program last Friday.
Absence of quorum plagued the first two session weeks, prompting Atienza to remark that the “election fever” has apparently set in.
Quorum is achieved only if 50 percent plus one of the total 291 House membership is present in plenary, or at least 147.
Without a quorum, the lawmaking body cannot lawfully conduct business.
But a bunch of congressmen belonging to or allied with the ruling Liberal Party (LP) were notably present during Noynoy’s formal endorsement of Interior Secretray Mar Roxas in Greenhills, San Juan City (Metro Manila).
And then it was followed by the “Show of Force” gathering where the lawmakers were again present to show solidarity for the administration’s 2016 standard-bearer.
Yet the House representatives could not make it to the session.
I agree with one political observer that this absenteeism among many legislators is in itself a “form of corruption.”
Why, in their failure to perform their mandated tasks, the taxpayers are aggravated.
Sabihin pa, tuloy lang ang kanilang suweldo at mga sideline kahit absent sila sa Batasan!
Habang naghihikahos naman ang karamihan sa maliliit na suweldo!
Now it looks like “priority bills” would have to wait until after October before these can be tackled and some vital measures would not likely pass for lack of time.
Several pending economic reform bills would have to be set aside to give way to deliberations on the 2016 national budget bill.
Siempre, yung pagkaka-perahan muna ang uunahin.
Alongside the national budget, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be pressed, according to Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao.
Reform measures such as the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) are likely doomed again.
Today, the House Committee on Appropriations starts deliberating on the whopping P3.002-trillion budget for the election year. Once it is presented to the plenary, no other bills can be tackled.
“We’ll have a lot of time after October. By the time, we’re already done with the budget and the BBL. So, except for the problem of quorum, our legislative calendar after October will be cleared,” Aggabao said.
He admitted that the FOI bill, which Noynoy did not mention in his last SONA would have “slim chance” for approval.
Instead, the President pushed for the passage of the BBL, next year’s national budget and the anti-political dynasty bill, among others.
“I was surprised that the President chose to mention the anti-dynasty bill instead of FOI. But even if he did certify it as urgent, if the House doesn’t like it, it won’t be taken up,” Aggabao said.
Congress admittedly took the cue from what Noynoy outlined in his SONA, as it merely serves as a stamp pad of Malacañang.
Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales said lawmakers would be asked to be present as he expects the presence of a quorum today to push the controversial BBL.
The House holds plenary sessions from Monday to Wednesday, starting at 4 p.m. The mornings are allotted for committee hearings on pending bills and resolutions.
Some lawmakers return to their respective districts during weekends while many just “kick back.”
Well, it has been a long, long weekend for most lawmakers.
So long in May 2016!