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Villafuerte to House colleagues who oppose terror bill: Quit as committee heads, respect majority

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 09:22 PM June 10, 2020

A top House leader on Wednesday (June 10) called out administration-allied lawmakers, who voted against or withdrew their yes votes for the Anti-Terrorism Bill, saying they should quit their committee leaderships and other plum posts to show respect to the majority coalition in the chamber.

“No member was asked or forced to vote ‘yes.’ It was a conscience vote and choice for everyone,” said Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte, one of 22 deputy Speakers in the House.

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“However, if it’s in your conscience to oppose the measure, you should also have the conscience to resign from your leadership position,” said Villafuerte, addressing his colleagues.

The lawmaker said there was no longer any way for those who wished to retract or change their vote to do so under House rules, since plenary session was already adjourned last week.

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“Those who were obviously pressured by social media and wanted to withdraw their vote have to follow the rules of the House and make an appeal on the floor, which [has] to be voted upon by the body when we are in session,” Villafuerte said.

“Since we are on a break, they can no longer withdraw their vote,” he told the Inquirer, reacting to the growing number of House members who had indicated their intent to change their affirmative vote to an abstention.

Villafuerte, a principal author of the anti-terror House Bill No. 6875, which was an adaptation of the Senate version and had been transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature, criticized the lawmakers who changed their minds about the bill for having been “obviously pressured by social media.”

“They are only doing this for public consumption but they know for a fact that there’s a process when you change your vote. You cannot vote yes and change it the next day,” he said.

Though he did not name anyone, some of those who voted no to the bill or changed their affirmative vote to an abstention are holding key House posts.

Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, also one of the 22 deputy Speakers, was the highest-ranking House leader to admit having voted no after she was initially wrongly identified as a co-author of the bill.

“I respect the position taken by my colleagues. That’s democracy,” Legarda told Inquirer in response to Villafuerte’s rant.

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Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, who withdrew as principal author of the bill and voted no, is vice chair of the powerful House appropriations panel and of the House national defense and security committee.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who retracted his yes vote and wanted it changed to an abstention, chairs the House ways and means committee.

Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones and Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo, who each said they had meant to abstain but were incorrectly recorded as having voted yes, are chairpersons of the tourism committee and the basic education committee.

The House went on recess last Friday (June 6). It will resume plenary work on July 27, coinciding with the President’s fifth State of the Nation Address, unless the President calls a special session.

Under Section 103 of House rules, “when a measure, report or motion is approved, adopted or lost, a Member who voted with the majority may move for its reconsideration on the same or succeeding session day. Only one motion for reconsideration shall be allowed.”

Villafuerte said the majority members who voted against or changed their mind about voting for the measure “should have the professional decency and ethical standard to resign from their leadership posts for voting against the majority position, especially since it was certified as urgent by the President, who is the leader of the majority coalition.”

“You cannot be a member of the majority and oppose its position and stand,” he said.

It wasn’t the first time that the House leadership cracked the whip on majority members who defied the party stand on controversial bills.

In 2017, about a dozen House leaders were stripped of their positions as deputy Speaker deputy or committee chairpersons for voting against the death penalty bill under then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’ leadership. They included former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who replaced Alvarez as Speaker in a House coup.

The House has not released an official breakdown of the 168-36 vote with 29 abstentions on June 3.

Edited by TSB
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TAGS: Committees, deputy speaker, House of Representatives, lawmakers, Legislation, posts, Terrorism, Votes
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