Chronic absenteeism in House killing key legislations – Rep. Palatino

TIME is ticking, and yet House members are missing.

The lack of quorum in the plenary of the Lower House is “slowly killing” key legislations up for second and third reading in Congress, said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino.

“Many representatives are not even appearing in plenary. In fact, yesterday, we had a historic low attendance,” Palatino said. Only 70 members responded to the roll call in the plenary session yesterday.

“The chronic absenteeism of my fellow legislators could spell doom to important legislations such as the Reproductive Health Bill,” Palatino added.

In the eight days wherein Congress held sessions since its resumption on November 5, a quorum was only reported last Monday, November 19.

“There was a quorum on Monday because Congress passed the K-12 Bill on third and final reading. But on days when no key Malacañang-backed bill is to be discussed, we hardly see the plenary hall get filled,” Palatino said.

“It’s not surprising at all. Many congressmen only go to sessions when there is pressure from their political parties to attend, just like what happened on Monday. On other days, fellow legislators don’t bother to show up. It’s a behavior I have often observed when election season is near,” the youth solon continued.

Including today, there are only 13 plenary sessions left before Congress adjourns on the third week of December. To give way to the campaign period for the upcoming elections, Congress will resume session for only 15 working days next year, from January 21 to February 8.
Rule XI, Section 69 of the Rules of the House states that daily plenary session shall commence at 4PM on Mondays through Thursdays.

“Tatlong araw sa isang linggo, wala pang limang oras sa isang session, hindi pa nila magawa. Such legislators we have indeed,” Palatino said.

Last May 14, Palatino filed Joint Resolution No. 30, which urge “the leadership of the House of Representatives and of the Senate to conduct daily plenary sessions on Mondays through Thursdays during regular session periods in order to address more concerns and issues of the people through legislative work” and to “regularly disclose to the public the attendance records of legislators during committee hearings in the name of transparency.”

Palatino filed Joint Resolution No. 30 in light of the lack of quorum brought about by the Corona impeachment trial last May. Congress has yet to conduct a committee hearing for the said resolution.

“Apart from those bills languishing at the committee level like the FOI, there are also many bills waiting to be deliberated at the plenary hall, including the RH Bill. If this chronic absenteeism continues, these bills will die a natural death,” Palatino ended.

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