Senator Miriam-Defensor Santiago has all the right to be emotionally affected when the issue of “quorum” was suddenly raised by Congressman Rodolfo Farinas during the confirmation hearing conducted yesterday by the Commission on Appointments on the appointment of certain officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
That incident makes one wonder why there was a sudden concern by our lawmakers on the importance of a “quorum”? Perhaps this is the appropriate time to remind our legislators that there are hundreds of bills passed by Congress (Senate and the House of Representatives) without the existence of the required number of legislators constituting a quorum. This fact cannot be denied by our lawmakers because, since time immemorial, records of both houses will definitely show that so many bills were passed by Congress without quorum and subsequently signed into law by the President.
And so, what’s so important about the issue of quorum in the aforesaid incident between Santiago and Farinas? This issue of quorum could be waived if no one is raising its legal importance, as has been done in previous hearings and deliberations of both houses of Congress.
In view of this incident, there is now the imperative need to pass a law or even amend the Constitution to provide for the strictest observance of a quorum in any and all deliberations or meetings in our legislative department. There should be a law making it a criminal offense for any member of Congress to pass a bill without a quorum or without the personal or actual presence of the required number of senators or representatives to deliberate and vote on any legislative enactment. The Constitution should likewise be amended or a law should be passed making it an impeachable offense as culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayal of public trust for a President to sign into law a bill knowing fully well that it was passed by Congress without the required quorum.
In this way, at least our people or the electorate would have the assurance that they would not be shortchanged by perennial absentee legislators who, after election, would just appear in Congress only at their most convenient time practically forgetting or setting aside their solemn oath to serve the public.
Mr. Romulo B. Makalintal, who signed this article with the honorific title “Atty.” which we did not use because it is forbidden in by-lines by The Manila Times stylebook, is one of the Philippines’ most celebrated election lawyers. He is also a poet.
Philamlife Village, Las Piñas City