Are lawmakers working? House attendance record ordered releasedBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines — Tension caused by the delays on the passage of key measures at the House of Representatives has prompted its leadership to release copies of their attendance at session.
Asked whether they would do a “shame campaign” on legislators who keep on skipping sessions, House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has already directed House secretary general Marilyn Barua-Yap to release copies of their attendance and show who among their ranks were usually absent.
Lawmakers’ attendance records are part of the House journals which are available for download in PDF form from www.congress.gov.ph/download/index.php?d=journals
Since the resumption of session last November 5, lawmakers have only been able to muster a quorum once. This was last Monday when they approved on third and final reading the controversial K-12 measure.
Despite the House leadership’s text brigades reminding legislators of the need to attend sessions by Tuesday, lawmakers once again failed to constitute a quorum.
Manila Representative Amado Bagatsing on Thursday said he had no problems with a shame campaign on congressmen who were always absent but pointed out that work in their respective districts weigh more for many lawmakers.
“You might be superman in Manila but a son of a gun in your district. Then you are nobody. Take care of your district and their needs and basic services [and you’ll return to Congress],” he said in a media forum.
Absenteeism has sparked discord within the ranks of congressmen and has particularly angered lawmakers pushing for the approval of the Reproductive Health Bill. Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco on Wednesday started her criticisms on the House leadership’s inability to make their members show up during session.
She revealed in her Twitter account that House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II told her that the RH Bill’s passage was unlikely in the 15th Congress and that the measure would have to be repackaged for the next Congress.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. himself said that they kept on reminding their members to attend session but could not do anything else aside from that.
Gonzales said that they could not resort to threats on their colleagues, pointing out on Wednesday “we’ve been doing our share of what should be done. The most we can do is appeal to them.”
“They’re already grown up. We need not resort to making threats,” he said, explaining that since the RH Bill was an unfinished business at the plenary it could be taken up anytime.
He admitted that passing the RH Bill was a challenging task but said “there are many things that should be done with the RH Bill.”
“Of course that will depend on the people,” he said, referring to the presence of enough warm bodies at plenary. “How will you discuss it, once an objection is raised we will stop.”