Sotto warns Senate majority against absencesBy Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines— A senator poised to join the minority in the 16th Congress warned colleagues in the new majority to watch out for frequent absences and tardiness during their sessions if they want their pet bills passed.
Senator Tito Sotto said majority senators would have to make sure they are physically present in the session hall if their bills are being tackled on the floor. Otherwise, he and other senators in the minority would question the absence of the sponsor, which is considered an irregularity in the first place.
Sotto, who resigned as majority leader two weeks ago, said there have been instances in the 15th Congress when he tolerated the absence of a sponsor whose pet measure was being debated on the floor.
“Nobody objected anyway,” he said, citing an outgoing senator who was supposedly absent while his bill was being discussed.
“The Senate minority did not do its job of (fiscalizing) then. Those whose job is to question the proposed legislation were not inside the session hall so I as majority leader had no choice but to allow these bills to be passed,” he said.
“Besides, it was awkward for us to question the quorum or the absence of those whose role it was to question the bills because we were the majority and it was our job to make sure the measures were passed,” Sotto added in Filipino.
Things would be different now that the balance of power has shifted, he said.
“This time we are not beholden to anyone…. If the author or sponsor is absent, we will not take up the bill,” the senator warned.
Sotto added that minority senators would also question whether a quorum exists every time the roll call shows the lack of it.
“If you are absent, or late, or there is a lack of quorum, we will adjourn. This would be the new norm,” he added.
Observers noted that there have been instances when former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was forced to delay the roll call especially during Mondays because many of his colleagues were slow to arrive.
Aside from Sotto and Enrile, others expected to form the Senate minority are Jinggoy Estrada and Gregorio Honasan and newly elected Senators JV Ejercito and Nancy Binay.