MANILA - There were lots of vacant seats Monday in the first plenary session of the House of Representatives after a 5-week Christmas vacation.
No major issue was taken up, with the session starting at least 30 minutes late, devoting most of its time to the privilege speeches of Representatives Agapito Guanlao, Leopoldo Bataoil and Luzviminda Ilagan on various issues.
The session happened at the same time as the National Day of Prayer in Malacanan. Session adjourned without any roll call of members.
Told there may not be a quorum in the House, Speaker Sonny Belmonte told ABS-CBN via text that a lot of congressmen attended the prayer event.
"Could be. Madami ding congressman dito sa prayer," he said.
Belmonte was himself not in the session.
The first regular session of the 16th Congress enters its halfway mark this month, but already, it’s gone on 3 breaks, with the Christmas vacation as the longest—5 weeks.
July 22, 2013- September 27, 2013 (10 weeks)
October 14, 2013-October 25, 2013 (2 weeks)
November 18 ,2013- December 20, 2013 (5 weeks)
January 20, 2014 – march 14, 2014 ( 8 weeks)
May 5, 2014-June 13, 2014 ( 6 weeks)
Total : 31 weeks of session
September 28, 2013-october 13, 2013 (budget passage 2nd reading) ( 2 weeks)
October 26, 2013-November 17, 2013 (budget passage 3rd reading, halloween) ( 3 weeks)
December 21, 2013-January 19, 2014 (Christmas vacation) ( 5 weeks)
March 15, 2014- May 4, 2014 (summer vacation) ( 7 weeks)
June 14, 2014 to July 27, 2014 ( sine die adjournment) ( 6 weeks)
Total 23 weeks of vacation
Congress’ longest break will however come in March—when it goes on a 7-week summer vacation that will end in May. When sessions resume in May, it will only work for about a month before it goes on a 6 week sine die adjournment ahead of the opening of the 2nd regular session in July.
Congress ended its first 6 months in office last December with just four laws passed---the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan elections, the supplemental budget for 2013, the 1-year extension of the validity of calamity related funds in 2013 and the 2014 General Appropriations Act.
For 2014, Filipino taxpayers will shell out P10.74 billion for the operation of the Congress-both the Senate and the House. The figure is slightly higher than the 2013 budget of P10.4 billion.
Part of the budget will be spent on the Senate electoral tribunal—P87.05 million---even if there’s no Senate electoral protest. About P147 million has been earmarked for the House electoral tribunal.