Civil society groups hit solons’ absences in BBL sessions
DAVAO CITY – About two dozen civil society groups have asked the Office of the Ombudsman to intercede and push members of the House of Representatives to attend congressional sessions to ensure deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Ann Arnado, council member of the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) and one of the groups that complained, said it has been a matter of public knowledge since Congress formally opened in July that sessions after sessions were suspended and adjourned for lack of quorum, especially in the case of the BBL.
“The House of Representatives has failed to muster a quorum every time the proposed BBL is calendared to be taken up on the plenary floor,” Arnado said in a letter signed by 26 other CSO leaders and addressed to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. “The only time a quorum was achieved since sessions resumed in July was when the chamber tackled the proposed Salary Standardization Law.”
“Are these honorable members of the House of Representatives exempt from basic government policy on reporting for duty?” the letter asked. “What is the policy for their absences? Can they still claim compensation even if they are absent from work?”
The group also said that the debates at the Senate on the BBL are moving at turtle speed. “For instance, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has been debating Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for days on the definition of the term Bangsamoro and its implication to the various faiths in the autonomous region. Marcos, moreover, is also guilty of not always being present during BBL deliberation days.”
The CSOs said the lawmakers seemed to be telling the Filipino people by their action that they are “above the law,” by turning the legislative branch into a “state of paralysis,” and getting away with it.
Among the CSO signatories were the Moro Women Development and Cultural Center; Mindanao Action for Peace and Development Initatives and the Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, among others.
The groups mostly peace advocates, said they have already made a lot of public statement, letters, door-to-door campaigns in the offices of the House of Representatives and have appealed to the leadership of the House to address the absenteeism.
“This chronic absenteeism surely erodes public trust and is a public display of neglect of duty,” Arnado added.
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