MANILA, Philippines?No searing heat could stop them from wooing voters during an election campaign. But lawmakers apparently could not stay in a room with no air-conditioner even for just a few hours.
For the second straight day, the House of Representatives cancelled its thrice-a-week sessions after its maintenance crew failed to fix the air conditioning system at the Batasan complex in Quezon City.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that while the public could perceive the suspension of sessions negatively, there were practical reasons for the decision.
?The plenary hall has no windows,? said Belmonte. He also pointed out that the plenary sessions were just one aspect of a lawmaker?s work.
"The congressmen are still working in their offices and the committee hearings (held in buildings adjacent to the main Batasan building) are going on, such as the impeachment hearing,?? he said.
Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said it would be a violation of labor and health laws for people to work in a space without ventilation or air-conditioners.
?The heat from the spotlight alone is hot. The public would not be able to withstand the heat and would be deprived of their right to observe our sessions,? said Fariñas.
But their colleagues, especially those in the minority, rebuffed their excuses.
"Legislative work or public service for that matter should not be hampered by the lack of a cooling system. Physical discomfort is an inconvenience that can be withstood if only to fulfill one?s duties,?? said Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan in a text message.
Ilagan pointed out that while her peers could not endure this "temporary inconvenience,?? most Filipinos work under worse and more dangerous conditions with lower compensation.
"I would have willingly accepted the heat if only to give my sponsorship speech for the reproductive health bill,?? she said.
Lakas Rep. Milagros Magsaysay of Zambales said she wouldn?t mind "holding sessions even under the mango tree because, as legislators, we should be flexible.??
The main casualty in the suspension of sessions was the start of the plenary debate on the reproductive health bill which was supposed to start Tuesday.
Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, the lead RH advocate in the House, considered the delay "fortuitous,'' noting that this should further spur RH advocates to stand firm.
"This coincidence reinforces our advocacy and resolve to pursue the enactment of the reproductive health bill in order that pregnancy and development should not be left to the contingency of accidental events,'' said Lagman.