IN keeping with the call of President Duterte for a change, this Congress Insider will tackle the less serious—and seldom reported—aspect of lawmaking. If you’ll say I also fell victim to the so-called “Duterte-effect” with this sudden change, I plead guilty. Anyway, here are the funniest, most outrageous anecdotes I have collected in my almost 40 years of covering the legislature, starting with the Interim Batasang Pambansa.
Panic time for bill sponsor
Rep. Jorge Nuñez, of Cavite, wanted the bill he was sponsoring to be approved in a jiffy. So, before he stood up on the floor, he talked with almost all of his colleagues whom he had expected to stand up and question him on the floor. He said the bill was of local in nature and wasn’t controversial, so could they do away with the period of interpellation? The majority leader had already agreed to this, so the bill could be approved on second reading after his sponsorship.
Jorge had just finished delivering his sponsorship speech when he saw Rep. Sonny Escudero, of Sorsogon, stand up. He immediately signaled for a suspension of session, and then approached Sonny. He held Sonny tightly by the arm to keep him from going to the rostrum, but Sonny vigorously tried to shake free. Jorge begged Sonny not to interpellate him, and he was profuse with thanks when Sonny agreed. Then and only then did he signal for the resumption of the session.
What Jorge didn’t know was that Sonny stood up not to interpellate him but to go to the restroom. Sonny struggled to free himself because his bladder was already almost bursting.
“Ano ba ang pakialam ko sa bill niya! Ihing-ihi na ako!” Sonny told me when I inquired about what he and Jorge had talked about during the suspension.
Victim of practical joke
It was the first day in Congress of Rep. Robert Barbers, of Surigao. Speaker Ramon V. Mitra was delivering a lengthy speech when he felt an urgent need to go to the restroom. He tried to hold on, however. During his stint with the police force, he was taught that it was improper to leave while somebody important was talking
As the need became more unbearable, and because he didn’t know yet the rules of the House, he asked a fellow congressman if it was okay to leave the session hall in the middle of a speech by another.
“He told me that it’s against the rules to go to the restroom under such a circumstance,” he recalled.
So, Barbers tried to hold on as long as he could. But when he felt the “dam” was almost breaking, he dared to break the “rule” and virtually ran to the restroom.
“Only later did I learn that there was no such rule in the House,” he said with a grin.
Memorable maiden speech
The neophyte lawmaker didn’t want to be known as a member of the “silent majority.” Thus, he labored long and hard to deliver a memorable maiden speech.
When his name was called by the majority leader, he walked slowly to the rostrum, as if trying to savor every second of his “moment of glory.” He lifted his chin, looked to the left, then looked to the right. Assured that he already had the complete attention of his colleagues, he boomed: “Mr. Chamber!”
With a memorable maiden speech like that, he certainly didn’t go the ranks of “silent majority.”
The day the congressman couldn’t be stopped
The congressman was scheduled to deliver a privilege speech one afternoon. Unfortunately for him, the Order of Business of the chamber was filled with urgent bills, so like a dutiful soldier he had no choice but to postpone it but with the assurance of the majority leader that he could do so the following session day.
The House wasn’t able to dispose of most of the urgent bills the previous day, so the majority leader asked the congressman to defer the delivery of the privilege speech for another day. This time, the congressman was up in arms. He’s most insistent on delivering it that day, and for good reason.
“My wife was here yesterday. She’s in the gallery again today. She’ll kill me if I don’t get to deliver my speech today,” the congressman said.
This argument convinced the majority leader to allow him to speak as scheduled. Well, I guess that was one time when the presence of a wife was given more preference than bills certified by Malacañang as priority measures.