Activists outraged as House stops session to prevent veto override on SSS pension hike
MANILA, Philippines — Abruptly and unceremoniously, the House of Representatives adjourned session last (Wednesday) night to quell an attempt to force an override of the presidential veto of the Social Security System (SSS) pension hike.
Without calling the roll or going through other business, House leaders moved to adjourn the legislative session until May, even as the Makabayan bloc led by Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares tried to push a resolution asking the chamber to override President Aquino’s veto of the SSS pension hike bill.
The bill would have raised the pension of SSS retirees by P2,000 across the board, but Aquino, in a highly unpopular decision, vetoed the proposed law, arguing that it would bankrupt SSS in a matter of years.
Dozens of protesters in the House gallery, most of them elderly folks, were outraged at the abruptness of the adjournment. They had come en masse to express support for the override, waiting for hours for the session to begin.
They raised a ruckus and began chanting “Override!” with some of them facing the media to air their grievances.
Colmenares, who was driven to tears by the sudden development, and his fellow minority lawmakers, including Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon and Abakada Rep. Jonathan Dela Cruz, went up to the gallery to commiserate with the protesters.
With the adjournment, the 287-strong chamber sounded a virtual death knell on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL) and other vital bills such as the anti-dynasty and freedom of information (FOI) measures.
As in recent weeks, the House appeared to have difficulty mustering a quorum on its last day.
The first three hours of session featured empty tables and chairs on the plenary floor, and House leaders spent part of that time greeting guests in the gallery.
One of the guests was the actor Robin Padilla, who told reporters he was there to express support for the BBL. But even with his presence, there was little that could be done about the bill.
During the privilege hour, Anak Mindanao Rep. Sitti Turabin-Hataman gave an impassioned speech about her frustrations at the failure of Congress to pass the BBL, a measure that would create a new self-governing region for Muslims in Mindanao.
“Are we asking for too much? Is there anything in the BBL that we do not deserve?” Hataman said.
The adjournment left other pending bills by the wayside, including the languishing FOI and anti-dynasty bills. A measure to extend the land reform program has also not made progress.
There were a number of legislative successes, however, including the passage on third reading this week of bills such as the proposed Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Act, the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act, Foreign Investment Liberalization Act, and the two-year extension of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board.
When the House resumes session in May, the chamber will convene itself as a national board of canvassers for the elections, thus, there would virtually be no time left for other legislative business. SFM