Plenary vote on ABS-CBN ‘futile’
A shot in the dark.
The call for a plenary vote in order to reverse a House panel’s decision to kill ABS-CBN’s franchise bid is possible in theory, but “an exercise in futility” without President Duterte’s express backing, an opposition lawmaker said.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said House rules did not specifically provide for overturning the actions of any House committee, but the chamber’s leadership wielded the authority to make such a call if it so desired.
“However, with the ascendancy of [President] Duterte over the House and the subservience of the Speaker to the President, any remedy within the four corners of the House is an exercise in futility,” he said in a text message.
He was reacting to the opposition Makabayan bloc’s appeal to the House legislative franchises committee to submit its July 10 resolution rejecting ABS-CBN’s franchise application to the plenary for ratification and put it to a vote.
“The rules of the House do not provide for an appeal to the Plenary from an adverse decision of a committee on a proposed bill. However, the Plenary has inherent jurisdiction over the actions of a committee which is its creation,” Lagman said.
House Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzales II agreed that there was nothing in the House rules that would compel a committee to report out a decision on a bill to plenary for ratification.
“Under the rules, any bill which is unfavorably acted by the Committee is considered laid on the table, meaning formally unacted upon, as distinguished to a bill totally unacted upon by the committee which gives a member the right to file a motion to discharge the committee,” he said.
Possible to amend rules
“There is no rule that allows or mandates the committee to prepare and submit a committee report on bills referred to it, which is denied by it,” the Mandaluyong lawmaker said.
But he agreed that it was possible to amend the rules if the House leadership wished it..
“Of course anyone can move to amend it in the manner and procedure provided,” Gonzales said.
He explained that it was different for impeachment cases, such as when the House plenary reversed the decision of the justice committee to dismiss the impeachment case against former Commission on Elections chair Andres Bautista in October 2017. The House impeached Bautista in 137-75 vote with two abstentions.
Gonzales said the rules on impeachment were different, since “whatever findings of the committee on justice must always be reported out in plenary.”
“In this case, one-third of all members may overturn a dismissal by the committee or sustain an impeachment complaint,” he said.
One other committee that must submit a committee report to plenary is the committee on good government and public accountability “because it is the investigative body of the House,” Gonzales said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate acknowledged that the Makabayan’s plea was unprecedented, “but our move is based on the House Rules; specifically Section 44.”
“The rule specifically states that the committee shall make the report to the House. It does not distinguish whether the report is favorable or not favorable,” he said.
“It may have been the practice of the committees not to report their actions to the House, but this can be changed and it has basis on the rules of Congress,” Zarate said, citing the Bautista impeachment case.
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