House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has approved House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas proposal to lock out congressmen who are tardy for the 4pm plenary sessions of the Lower House.
“its fun to go to work yun lang yung kailangan itanim sa isipan. its fun to go to work gawin natin yung trabaho natin naintidihan naman nila in fact yung majority leader nagmungkahi na siya sa akin na itong darating na pagbukas ng kongreso ilalock niya yung session hall pag wala ka ng 4 o clock. oo ok kasi trabaho natin ito alas kuwatro nang hapon na yan eh malate malate ka pa ba alas kuwatro ng hapon yan”
The bid to curb tardiness follows a campaign to curb absenteeism. the majority has had no problem mustering a quorum for its plenary sessions during the first regular session of the 17th Congress.
Alvarez reported that they mustered a quorum in all 97 session days of the first regular session of the 17th congress. the highest quorum was on July 25, 2016 with 285 congressmen present. the lowest was on september 30 2016 with 156 congressmen.
Part of the campaign against absenteeism is the Speaker’s decision to limit the issuance of travel authority to congressmen. Congressmen have been known to travel out of town during congressional breaks and extend even during session days. Not anymore, under Alvarez.
“yung rule na nangyari since january this year wala akong pipirmahan na travel authorituy during session days wala siyempre maraming congressman na na nung umpisa naninibago sila pero sabi ko i just have to be consistent talaga ako pinipirimahan pag may session pero halimbawa thursday friday saturday sunday meron silang official trips pwede yun kaya lang kailangan bumalik ka ng lunes at pumasok ka sa session”
Alvarez reported that while he did not deny any applications for travel authority, representatives adjusted their travel for none-session days. a total of 973 travel authorities were approved since November 9, 2016. 195 travels were with entitlements.
Which is why Alvarez says one of the achievements of his watch is the improved attendance and participation of congressmen in legislative work. “ang masasabi ko lang ngayong mga kongresista ngayon uner my watch napakasipag unang una lahat nhg araw session days may roll call may quorum yung committee heraings sobra sobra ang nag attend na members at lahat ng deadlines na binibigay ng majority leader ay nasusunod. kaya marami kaming output ngayon.”
One way he’s been able to encourage attendance and active participation is by attending committee hearings himself. Alvarez and Farinas have been regular fixtures in many committee hearings which previous speakers and majority leaders don’t really attend. House leaders are ex-officio members of all House committees. Alvarez explained, “gusto namin magtrabaho yun lang yun kasi para sa amin ni majority leader mnas maeenganiyo namin yung mga miyembro yung mga committee members na mag attend at magctive doonsa participation ng committee hearings doon pa lang makakpaagsalita kami para makita nila na buhay yung leadership”
Despite the strict measures his leadership has put in place, Alvarez maintained he is not a dictator in the House. “tingin ko kailangan lang din ipatrindi muna sa members di naman ito minamartial law natin sila talagang pinagusapan natin ito sa majority para maintidihan ng lahat at kusang lob naman sila di naman kami nagsuggest eh galing mismo sa kanila yun sabi ko ok yan so we’ll practice it”