No work, no pay for solons pushed

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It could be a new twist to the no work, no pay policy.

With absenteeism a perennial problem in Congress, lawmakers who fail to meet the most basic requirement of showing up for work must be fined for their absences, some senatorial aspirants believe.

What is more important, they say, is for voters to choose candidates who will uphold their sworn duties and not allow such problems to happen in the first place.

Senatorial candidate Paolo Benigno Aquino IV of the administration coalition Team PNoy said being a member of the Senate was a serious responsibility and its members were expected, at the minimum, to attend its hearings and sessions.

Failure to do so must entail penalties, such as fines that become higher as the absences worsen, he said during the “Paninindigan” senatorial forum of GMA News, the Inquirer’s election partner. The first portion of the forum was to air last night.

Making people aware

“I am in favor of penalizing those who don’t attend [sessions]. Maybe they should be fined,” Aquino said when asked about the issue of frequent absences.

Aquino added that the issue boiled down to leadership and governance and that voters must choose people who were ready to work and were dedicated to their jobs.

Another senatorial candidate, Teddy Casiño, told the Inquirer that the imposition of fines could work not because the fines would hurt the senators in their pockets (many of them are moneyed anyway) but because it would bring the people’s attention to the problem of absenteeism.

A representative of Bayan Muna party-list group, Casiño is running for senator as an independent.

Gordon: Shame them

Casiño and Aquino said it was important to make public the attendance records of the lawmakers, along with how they spent their priority development assistance funds and  operating expenses, so that the people would know what they were doing with those funds and hold them accountable.

“Lawmakers would be more conscious of their duties because the public would be interested in the issue, on who paid large fines,”  Casiño said. “The public attention it will generate will make it effective.”

For senatorial candidate Richard Gordon of the United Nationalist Alliance, there are enough rules to hold absentee lawmakers to account and it would be better to perhaps “shame” them for their delinquency.

Gordon stressed that voters should not elect candidates that would not give their all to their sworn duties.

Not popularity alone

“The whole problem is not in imposing fines because by that time, you have elected them,” Gordon said, adding that the real problem was the inability of people to distinguish between “show biz-politics type” candidates and candidates promoting “substance-based” politics.

“That’s the reason for all the absences,” he said. “People don’t get quality legislation because they elect poor-quality people based on popularity.”

Gordon said the electorate must learn to be discerning, especially amid the noise generated by “show biz” controversies that tend to overshadow the more serious issues facing the country, such as the power crisis hampering Mindanao’s development and the conflict in Sabah.

Problem of quorum

Lack of warm bodies has led to the adjournment of sessions in Congress. The result is that crucial legislation has been delayed or has died  from inaction.

Casiño said the House leadership had to resort at times to sending text messages to lawmakers so that there would be sufficient quorum to proceed with the session.

He said there had also been instances where the leadership would release allowances or special allotments to make sure the lawmakers would attend the sessions.

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