MANILA — BUHAY Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza reiterated on Tuesday the importance of attending sessions as he challenged Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., to impose punishment against lawmakers who are considered recidivist in skipping parliamentary sessions.
Atienza said Belmonte should address the chronic absences, which prevent the House of Representatives from immediately passing pending urgent bills especially the newly-sponsored Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
He proposed the regular publication of names of absentee lawmakers in several national newspapers or in the journal of the House of Representatives and possibly withheld the salaries and other perks of his colleagues to compel them from attending plenary sessions.
“I challenge the House leadership to act decisively on chronic problem of quorum. Let us transact business in the plenary at four in the afternoon with quorum because this is our duty as elected members of this institution. Sanctions are needed to address the truancy and absenteeism,” Atienza told House reporters while waiting for the needed quorum.
But House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said the House leadership can only make an appeal to their colleagues to perform their legislative duty of attending plenary sessions.
“Alam mo naman ang mga congressmen, pakiusapan ‘yan. Hindi naman naging patakaran ng Kongreso na ‘no appearance, no pay.’ Hindi ganoon because sasabihin nila marami namang duty. Although our foremost duty is to attend the session. Pero hindi mo rin ma-impose ‘yung ganoong patakaran na ‘pag hindi ka nag-appear, wala kang suweldo. Mahirap ‘yung ganoong patakaran,” Gonzales explained.
“Actually lahat ng tinatalakay namin diyan should always be influenced by our sense of duty, particularly itong BBL,” Gonzales added.
Earlier, Gonzales admitted that the passage on third and final reading before June 11 of BBL remains an uphill battle.
Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao is one of the top absentees in the House of Representatives.
Aside from lawmaking and boxing, Pacquiao is also the playing-coach of KIA Carnival in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Out of 70 sessions of the House of Representatives from January 20 to Dec. 17 last year, records bared that Pacquiao and Negros Occidental Rep. Julio Ledesma IV registered the lowest attendance after attending only seven session days while former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo posted no attendance.
Mrs. Arroyo is currently detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City since November 2012 following her plunder case before Sandiganbayan.
Dimaporo who is facing malversation case has been under hospital arrest since 2013.
Only sixty-five lawmakers, including Belmonte have recorded perfect attendance in the 70 sessions.