MANILA- Tardy lawmakers will be shut out of plenary sessions of the House of Representatives effective July 25, the start of the 2nd regular session of the 17th Congress.
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said this consensus was reached in a recent majority caucus, a move that seeks to discipline House members who often come late.
"By the way, we agreed during our last caucus that for the 2nd Regular Session starting July 25, we will call the Roll of Members at exactly 4 p.m. with the doors of the session hall locked, which will only be opened after the Roll Call," he said.
Plenary sessions are scheduled Monday to Wednesday at 4 p.m. But the session is usually suspended so that lawmakers coming in late may still make the roll call, and the House could reach a quorum.
On average, it takes about 30 minutes to an hour before session actually begins.
This is a practice Fariñas hopes to end, with the aim of making sessions more time-efficient.
The Philippine Constitution provides that Congress shall convene for its regular session annually every fourth Monday of July.
"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!" Fariñas added.
"We've been wasting time waiting for members to trickle in for the roll call, to the prejudice of those who show up at 4 p.m. Please publish for the info and pressure of all members," Fariñas said.
Farinas said shutting out latecomers was a practice he initially implemented on the Rules Committee which he chairs. The all-powerful committee decides everything that happens in the House.
"I've been doing that in the Rules Committee. We start exactly at 2 p.m. with the doors locked, and call the roll of members. Initially, we had chairpersons and sponsors arriving late and locked out. We had one chairman who was locked out on 3 consecutive Tuesday meetings; he finally learned to arrive early for the 4th time," he said.
Fariñas also told media that he was even considering to hold plenary sessions earlier, either at 3 p.m. or even 10 a.m., leaving committee deliberations in the afternoons and evenings.
"I will even consider sessions at 3 p.m. Better pa if 10 a.m. then committee hearings at 1 p.m. to sawa!," he said.
Fariñas pointed out that whenever each regular session opened on the day the President delivers his yearly State of the Nation Address yearly, Congress has legislative sessions at 10 a.m. to make way for the speech at 4 p.m.
"In fact, our first session of the regular session starts at 10 a.m. as we have the SONA at 4 p.m.!" he said.
Fariñas expects opposition to come only from lawmakers who have to fly in from the provinces at the start of each workweek.
"The ones who'll complain are those flying in from the province on Monday morning. My reply: fly in Sunday night!" he said.
The 17th Congress has had no problems mustering a quorum during its first regular session from July last year. The roll of members has been called consistently every session day, unlike in previous sessions.