Alvarez to crack down on tardy congressmen

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2017 10:05 PM

MANILA - House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has approved a proposal to lock out lawmakers who will arrive late for the 4 p.m. plenary sessions of the House of Representatives.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas made the said proposal to curb tardiness in the Lower House.

"It's fun to go to work, 'yun lang yung kailangan itanim sa isipan. It's fun to go to work. Gawin natin 'yung trabaho natin," the Speaker said. 

"Naintindihan naman nila. In fact, 'yung Majority Leader nagmungkahi na siya sa akin na itong darating na pagbukas ng Kongreso ila-lock niya yung session hall pag wala ka ng 4 o'clock. Oo, okay kasi trabaho natin ito. Alas kuwatro ng hapon na 'yan eh malate ma-late ka pa ba."

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 Alvarez'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, which will not be allowed anymore. 

"Yung rule na nangyari since January this year, wala akong pipirmahan na travel authority during session days. Wala siyempre maraming congressman na nung umpisa naninibago sila pero sabi ko I just have to be consistent talaga. Ako pinipirmahan '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," he said.

The Speaker said a total of 973 travel authorities were approved since November 9, 2016. Of this number, 195 travels were with entitlements.

Alvarez said one of the achievements of his watch is the improved attendance and participation of congressmen in legislative work. 

"Sobra sobra ang nag-attend na members at lahat ng deadlines na binibigay ng majority leader ay nasusunod. Kaya marami kaming output ngayon," he said.

One way he's been able to encourage attendance and active participation is by attending committee hearings himself. 

Alvarez and Fariñas 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. 

"Gusto namin magtrabaho. 'Yun lang yun. Kasi para sa amin ni Majority Leader, mas mae-engganyo namin 'yung mga miyembro, 'yung mga committee members na mag-attend at mag-active doon sa participation ng committee hearings. Doon pa lang makakapagsalita kami para makita nila na buhay yung leadership," Alvarez explained. 

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 ipatindi muna sa members, di naman ito mina-martial law natin sila. Talagang pinag-usapan natin ito sa majority para maintidihan ng lahat at kusang loob naman sila, 'di naman kami nag-suggest eh galing mismo sa kanila 'yun. Sabi ko okay 'yan so we’ll practice it," he said.