No need to arrest absentee solons, House leaders sayBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines – Although arresting its members in order to muster quorum is an option, lawmakers on Monday saw no need for the House of Representatives to resort to such a move just yet.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. himself said they would not resort to such a move in order to get lawmakers to show up during session. He said that he felt that last week’s focus on the lack of quorum by the media was enough to motivate those within their ranks to attend session.
Cibac Partylist Representative Sherwin Tugna, who has earlier said that legislators who have consistently been skipping work at the House of Representatives can be ordered arrested, said that its leadership has other “less drastic ways to be able to persuade and subtly compel colleagues to attend plenary session.”
Marikina Representative Miro Quimbo said, “The idea of arresting solons to compel attendance is not ideal. We should appeal to the sense of country and duty of the members of Congress. We’ve passed difficult and controversial measures in the last two years, so kaya namin ito (we can do this),”
While he also acknowledged that the House leadership has an option to compel its members to attend session, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said, ”tingnan natin, baka hindi na kailangan pwersahin. (Let’s see. Maybe there is no need to force them).”
Lagman is the main proponent of House Bill 4244 known as Reproductive Health bill, one of the key proposed measures pending at the House of Representatives. Lack of quorum has brought developments on the bill to a halt, causing tension among legislators.
Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco claimed for instance that House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II supposedly said that the RH bill has already died in the 15th Congress.
But Lagman said he was not at all bothered by it, saying that Gonzales’ statement could just have been “taken out of context.”
He said the period of amendments on the bill would go by swiftly if they would do it by substitution.
If his colleagues would agree to adopt the substitute bill earlier crafted and circulated by pro-RH solons, then Lagman said, “Madali na lang ito.”
He said the period of amendments would take longer if they would agree on doing individual amendments for HB 4244.
Lawmakers backing the RH Bill want it approved on second reading before they go on Christmas break on December 22.