MANILA, Philippines – The question of whether independent members of the House of Representatives should be allowed to ask questions during committee hearings stalled the budget deliberations on Thursday.
Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya Jr.’s statement that independent lawmakers will be given a chance to ask questions drew mixed reactions from his colleagues, stalling the committee on appropriations’ hearing on the judiciary’s proposed funding for 2014.
The Judiciary’s proposed funding for 2014 was P18.4 billion. It increased by P1.456 billion, said Supreme Court deputy administrator Raul Villanueva.
Despite this increase in the proposed budget, Villanueva said only P100,000 will be apportioned for every regional trial court every month.
When he said that independent House members will be given a chance to ask questions after those from the minority, the panel’s chairman Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab intervened citing the committee rules that the minority and majority members will alternately be asking questions.
Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco, an independent, balked at this statement and urged the chairman to allow them to ask questions.
“We independents are not given any right to vote. Now we are being barred from asking questions, too? We are requesting for your consideration,” he said.
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, a member of the minority bloc, told the committee that they had no problem with the independents’ request.
The hearing was stalled at that point but when it resumed, Ungab maintained that they would “still follow the rules that the minority will be preferential treatment followed by the majority. Those independent will be listed with the minority.”
“This will be only for this committee. We will be identified as independents,” insisted Tiangco.