SENATOR Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Rep. Lito Atienza on Thursday slammed the leadership of the House of Representatives for the abrupt adjournment of the session on Wednesday apparently to suppress moves to override the President’s veto of the proposed Social Security System (SSS) pension hike.
Senior citizens groups trooped to the House hoping that lawmakers would listen to their request to override the veto but the chamber adjourned suddenly without giving proponents of the override a chance to air their proposal.
“That added insult to injury. I respect the prerogative of the House leadership but I think it would have been a lot better if the proponents were at least given a chance to speak out,” Marcos said.
Atienza, Buhay party-list representative, condemned the political bullying at the House.
He particularly vented his ire on Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd who terminated the proceedings.
“We are disgusted with what happened last night during the last session day. Mahigit tatlong oras naghintay ang ating mga senior citizens at pensioners, subalit hindi binigyan ng pagkakataon na marinig ang tinig ng bayan. Sa pangunguna ni Majority Floor Leader [Gonzales], biglang in-adjourn ang sesyon at pinatayan kami ng kuryente at mikropono.
Binastos ang members. Saan pupunta ang demokrasya kung ganito ang ating Kongreso [Senior citizens and pensioners waited for more than three hours but they were not given the chance to be heard. Led by Majority Floor Leader Gonzales, the session was suddenly adjourned and they turned off the lights and microphones. We were treated rudely. Where is democracy headed if Congress is like this]? A Congress like this would weaken our democratic foundations,” Atienza fumed.
“For our democracy to flourish, Congress should let its members speak. We are the people’s representatives and should be allowed to speak on their behalf especially on critical issues that affect them. We did not fight the dictatorship at EDSA to be disrespected in this manner, we should never allow this to happen. I know that
Congressman Gonzales is the architect of what happened. He has been doing this political bullying for the past three years. Hindi na yata ito Kongreso ng Pilipinas kung hindi Kongreso ni Boyet [It seems that this is not the Congress of the Philippines anymore but Boyet’s],” he added.
Boyet is Gonzales’ nickname.
Marcos, who backed moves in the Senate to override the veto of the SSS pension hike bill, noted that senators cannot act to override the veto because such action must originate from the House of Representatives where the bill originated.
House Deputy Speaker Carlos Padilla adjourned the last day of session at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday as House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares, the author of the P2,000 across-the-board SSS pension increase for retirees, was requesting that the session continue.
“This can’t go on, Mr. Speaker. We have counted 213 [lawmakers]present here,” Colmenares argued but to no avail.
Congress’ inaction enraged the senior citizens in the gallery.
“Don’t take us for fools. Arrest those lawmakers who sleep on their jobs. Is that their job?
To sit there and do nothing?” an elderly woman shouted.
“Mga buwaya, magpakabusog kayo sa pera ng mamamayan [Crocodiles! They feed on people’s money],” another woman said.
Colmenares shared their sentiment.
“The veto resulted in indignation not only among pensioners but even among labor groups and active members of the SSS. The current pension is inhumane as it cannot in any way sustain life for pensioners and should have necessitated government intervention many years ago,” he said.
Marcos said the government must be more compassionate toward retired and elderly workers, many of whom are relying mainly on their SSS pension for their daily expenses.
The senator a downplayed claims that the pension hike will bankrupt the SSS.
“If the management of the SSS did a better job in terms of collections, if they did a better job in terms of investments, they could afford it,” Marcos said.
Atienza noted that whether the proposed override is approved, the important thing is that the issue should be discussed thoroughly on the floor with every member being given a chance to speak.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House would not have mustered enough votes to overturn the veto.
“We need two-thirds. I doubt that we would have mustered the quorum necessary [to override the veto]. What happened was necessary. We all know that it [overriding the veto]cannot be done. Despite the previous explanations, they still packed the gallery with people [expecting otherwise],” Belmonte told reporters late Thursday.
“There’s a certain bad faith on the [part of the]people out there because we approved the P2,000 hike with another bill that allows the SSS Board of Trustees to make adjustments to cover whatever the additional amount that will be given out [as a result of the hike]. We did not approve one without the other [bill], ” he said.