On last day, Senate recalls pork scam, House lets SSS veto stay
Lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday held the last sessions of the 16th Congress under the Aquino administration, with Senate President Franklin Drilon declaring that the upper chamber had “triumphed over adversity,” referring to the pork barrel scandal that implicated three of its members.
In the House of Representatives, nearly a quarter of 290 lawmakers marked their last day trying to override President Aquino’s veto of a bill raising by P2,000 the pension for Social Security System (SSS) retirees. But the attempt failed.
In his closing speech, Drilon said the Senate “fared well” as it was able to pass “difficult but landmark measures that previously languished in the legislative mill for decades.”
“Thus, we need not be afraid to face the verdict of our people and history,” he said.
In separate resolutions, the Senate expressed gratitude to absent Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, whose terms of office along with Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, will end on June 30.
The three senators are facing a plunder trial in the Sandiganbayan over the alleged misuse of their pork barrel to the tune of hundreds of millions of pesos.
Enrile was detained with Revilla and Estrada in 2014 but he was granted bail by the antigraft court last year.
In an impromptu good-bye speech, Enrile thanked the senators and the people he had worked with for 27 years or four terms in the Senate.
Enrile also thanked the Filipino people “for giving me the opportunity, the privilege and the honor to serve them.”
In his speech, Drilon made reference to the time some senators and their staff members, as well as other lawmakers and government officials, were implicated in the pork barrel scam.
“Three years ago, shortly after we convened the 16th Congress, the Senate went through what may have been its darkest period in its 100 years of existence. The naysayers had written us off and doubted we could ever regain the trust of our people. It was difficult and challenging. But we listened. We persevered. We worked hard. We made difficult decisions. We implemented reforms. We stood as one,” Drilon said.
“Not long after, a clear majority of our people, as reflected in the opinion polls, expressed satisfaction with the Senate’s performance. We had triumphed collectively over adversity,” Drilon said.
The Senate also commended outgoing Senators Pia Cayetano, Serge Osmeña, Teofisto Guingona III, Lito Lapid and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whose terms also end on June 30.
Lapid, Osmeña and Guingona were absent. Santiago remains in the hospital. Both Osmeña and Guingona lost their reelection bids in the May polls.
In the lower house, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. awarded 67 lawmakers in their third straight and final term in Congress with plaques of recognition and Congressional Medals of Achievement.
The next Congress will not only have new faces but also a new leader with incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez expected to take over as Speaker.
On Monday night, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares and a number of supportive lawmakers lost a motion to put the SSS veto to a vote after they were told by Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II that the Senate had already adjourned earlier, thus making the matter moot.
Colmenares had hoped to muster the 193 votes needed for the House to overturn the presidential veto of the SSS bill. As of Sunday, the congressman’s staff said some 128 lawmakers had signed the override resolution.
But Gonzales pointed out during a heated debate with Colmenares, Manila Representatives Lito Atienza and Amado Bagatsing, and Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, that the veto override would be a futile exercise since the Senate had already adjourned.
After a few minutes of debate, Deputy Speaker Giorgidi Aggabao ruled in Gonzales’ favor.
Northern Samar Rep. Harlin Abayon was booted out on the last session day of the 16th Congress as House leaders refused to recognize his poll victory over former Deputy Speaker Raul Daza.
Aggabao ordered the ejection of Abayon from the Batasan session hall because the House secretary general has not yet received a copy of the Supreme Court ruling upholding Abayon’s victory over Daza in the 2013 elections.
Abayon was declared the winner by the Commission on Elections in the race for Northern Samar district representative in 2013.
But the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) ruled that Daza had won, which allowed the latter to join the House roster in March this year as Abayon failed to secure a temporary restraining order from the high court.
In an interview with reporters after his unceremonious exit, Abayon said this was probably the first time a legitimate member of the House was ejected from office.
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