The Senate will hold only its 66th session day in 287 calendar days when it resumes its regular session on May 5. This means that this legislative body has spent more days on recess than on the floor, 221-66. If the Senate were a private corporation, it would have gone bankrupt with the pitiful work ethic of the senators. Of course, it will never go bankrupt because all expenses for its upkeep are shouldered by the people thru taxes whether it performs or not.
Now, if you think that the Senate’s working for only 66 session days in 287 calendar days is already woeful, read on and weep. In the 62 session days with journals, the Senate met for 122 hours and 22 minutes. That’s an average of less than two hours per session. An employee, whether public or private, would have been sacked if they spend so little time doing their main job. Ah, but senators have a fixed term of six years. They can work for less than eight hours a day and they can’t be fired by their bosses, the people they are supposed to serve.
Mind you, those 122 hours and 22 minutes include at least 10 minutes per session spent for the referral of bills and resolutions and acknowledgement of official communications and of guests. Session No. 12, conducted on August 14, 2013, lasted 1 hour 14 minutes but it was devoted solely to the reading of bills and resolutions on first reading.
Oh yes, those session hours also include numerous suspensions. Very often, session is suspended after the referral of bills, followed by more suspensions until adjournment. The majority leader may call for a minute suspension but in reality, this “minute” may last up to a half-hour. On Nov. 18, 2013, Session No. 32 was suspended at 3:12 pm. 11 minutes after it was called to order, and was resumed only at 4:36 pm. Session No. 34 (Nov. 27, 2013) was suspended at 3:51 p.m. and was resumed at 4: 23; Session No. 33 (No. 26, 2013) was suspended at 3:33 p.m., and was resumed at 4:20 pm.
Some 14 Senate sessions lasted less than an hour each, with the shortest at 24 minutes, held on Dec. 18, 2013 (Session No. 41). The session was called to order at 3:28 p.m., and was adjourned at 3:52 p.m. after Sen. Loren Legarda had delivered a speech on bio-diversity. The senators might have been in a rush to start their holiday break for they didn’t even bother to interpellate Senator Loren on such an important issue.
The other Senate sessions lasting less than an hour each were: Session No. 2, 52 minutes; SN 14, 49 minutes; SN 15, 31 minutes; SN16, 53 minutes; SN 18, 57 minutes; SN 20, 30 minutes; SN 21, 34 minutes; SN 22, 34 minutes; SN 37, 49 minutes; SN 44, 44 minutes; and SN 61, 51 minutes.
After reading those tales of horror, one would be surprised that the Senate once held a session day for 30 hours and 21minutes. Session No. 32 spans five calendar days with morning and afternoon sessions: Nov. 18, 19, 20, 21 and 25. That’s an average of 5 hours 4 minutes per calendar day.
This needs clarification though. A session day may last more than one calendar day when the session is merely suspended for the day and not adjourned. Suspension of session precludes the need for roll call and, therefore, the quorum could be dispensed with. Thus, the 65 session days before May 5 actually involved 70 session days with one more, SN 40 lasting two days—Dec. 16 and 17, 2013.
It’s inexplicable why the Senate did so for SN 40. On Dec. 16, the session was called to order at 3:24pm and was suspended till the following day at 4:28pm or 1 hour 4 minutes later. On Dec. 17 it resumed at 3:13 pm and adjourned at 3:47. So, in those two calendar days, the Senate met for only 1 hour 35 minutes.
It’s no surprise that only three laws have been enacted by the current Congress. These are Republic Act 10632 (An Act Postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan Election), RA 10633 (the 2015 General Appropriations Act), and RA 10634 enacting a supplemental budget of P14.6 billion for fiscal year 2013.
Erratum: In my last column, the lead of my penultimate paragraph should read: “During this Holy Week, we must also remember that about 10 percent of Filipinos are Muslims, and these Filipinos are more zealous of their religion than Catholics are of theirs.”