Stricter attendance in House session implemented by July

MANILA, Philippines – The House leadership is putting its foot down against tardy lawmakers.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said the roll call of members will begin at exactly 4 pm when the 17th Congress holds its second regular session on July 25. This is the same day President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his second State of the Nation Address.

“We agreed during our last caucus that for the second regular session starting July 25, we will call the roll of members at exactly 4 pm with the doors of the session hall locked, which will only be opened after the roll call,” said Fariñas. 

“Anyone not responding to the call will be marked absent, except those attending committee hearings as authorized by the Rules Committee or the Majority Leader. It's about time!” added the Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative. 

The House plenary session is held every Mondays to Wednesdays at 4 pm, but most lawmakers only arrive a few minutes later. Sometimes, some legislators even arrive one to two hours late.

Session is usually temporarily suspended to give time for lawmakers to come down from their offices. This, however, means either the session would end late or certain bills would have to be tackled for another day. 

Over the years, members of the House have been criticized for their poor attendance during sessions. In the past, the roll call is even dispensed with. 

A lack of quorum in Congress has hampered the passage of important bills, such as the proposed Freedom of Information Act and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. 

In December 2015, civil society leaders from 14 Mindanao-based groups even urged the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the “chronic absenteeism” in the House, following the failure of the House to muster a quorum for the Bangsamoro bill.

Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco also filed a “no work, no pay” bill in a bid to improve House attendance.

It was only during the 17th Congress, under the leadership of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Fariñas, that the House began checking the attendance every session day.  

To date, the House registered quorum in every plenary session held since June last year. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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