Atienza questions ‘imaginary votes’ in approval of House bill
MANILA, Philippines — Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza on Monday questioned the voting process in the approval of a bill at the House of Representatives, particularly on counting the votes of lawmakers not physically present inside the plenary hall.
During Monday’s session, Atienza initially questioned why the Secretariat said there are 232 lawmakers in attendance during the session when there are only 127 lawmakers physically present in the gallery.
Deputy Majority Leader and Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo explained that as per House rules, 43 members of the lower chamber are considered to be present despite being physically absent on the floor.
According to Romualdo, seven were on official travel, 11 were in the meeting of the Commission on Appointment, 15 were in the meeting of the special committee on flagship programs and projects, and 10 were in the meeting of the committee on higher and technical education.
“And so we reiterate that we do have a quorum and we stand by the count of the Secretary-General,” Romualdo said.
However, this only adds up to 170, Atienza said.
“I would grant the fact that we may have a considered quorum but not an actual quorum. So for as long as we do not vote for any measure, we will not question the figure cited by the majority leader,” Atienza said.
“But if we are going to vote on any measure, then we will insist that only the physically present be allowed to vote, otherwise, this will be a violation of our rules, violation of fundamental parliamentary rules, violation of people’s trust, violation of anything we stand for,” he added.
Atienza insisted that anyone who votes on measures for approval should be physically present, or else, the House would be “further making a mockery of the congressional proceedings.”
Romualdo concurred to Atienza’s manifestation, saying that those who are not physically present but deemed present will not be part of the voting and that only those who are physically present in the hall will be able to vote.
Voting on measure
The House later voted for the approval on third reading of House Bill No. 137, which seeks to impose stiffer penalties for child abuse, exploitation, and discrimination.
The Secretariat said 228 lawmakers voted to approve the bill, which prompted Atienza to raise questions. Atienza voted for the bill’s passage.
“As we warned earlier, we would not allow those who are not physically present to be counted in the voting. It seems the Secretariat still counted those who are not physically present. Only 146 are now present on the floor so the total number of votes should be counted not more than 146,” Atienza underscored.
“You may have a quorum with those absent counted as members with permission to be absent but they cannot vote. That is going to be a mockery of a good measure. I voted yes for this measure but I will not allow for this measure to be questionable in its passage,” the lawmaker added, calling the questionable votes “imaginary votes”.
Romualdo then moved for the transmission of the bill to the Senate, which Atienza objected.
“Wala po tayong (We do not have) 220 who voted so they cannot invent a number just so this measure will be passed. Kailangan po totohanan ang ating trabaho sapagkat kung hindi, mawawalan ng saysay ang ating ginagawang trabaho sa Kongreso ng Pilipinas,” Atienza said.
(We need to be true to our work because if not, our work in the Congress of the Philippine would lose any sense.)
The session was suspended after Atienza’s manifestation.
When the session resumed, Romualdo said the committee on rules assures that any errors that may have been committed by the Secretary-General with regard to the counting of House members present on the floor and to the tallying of votes will be rectified.
Atienza then withdrew his violent reaction but called the attention of the Secretariat to “not play around with the value of voting on the floor.”
“You had not been elected, we are. You had not been sent by the people here, you are appointed by the powers here. We have the right to question your actions and decisions when we see that you are not following the rules, the basic tenets of parliamentary democracy,” Atienza said.
“Please, do your duty and you will keep your jobs, otherwise, I will take my own personal move to prove that there is a mockery of procedures going on today,” he added.
Edited by KGA
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