Congress reps urged: “Pumasok na kayo”

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ILOILO CITY (MindaNews/06 December) – If a government auditor can be suspended for habitual tardiness, what is to be done with members of the House of Representatives who are always absent, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer asked during a media roundtable here on Friday.

A press release from the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday said Llane Saratan, auditor III the Commission on Audit in Region VI, was suspended or one month and one day by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas for simple misconduct for “tardiness/undertime for the months of January, February, October, November and December 2011” as reflected in her daily time record.

The Ombudsman also admonished the administrative head of the COA regional office for failure to act on Saratan’s habitual tardiness.

GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer says they are "not giving up" and wll continue to push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Ferrer was in Iloilo for a media roundtable discussion at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo City on Friday. Dec. 4, 2015. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer says they are “not giving up” and will continue to push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel was in Iloilo for a media roundtable discussion at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo City on Friday. Dec. 4, 2015. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

Ferrer said the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels and civil society organizations (CSO), have been pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but “we’re working on a very limited time frame, na-delay nang na-delay largely because of absenteeism and filibusterism in Congress.”

Representatives of at least 29 predominantly Moro CSOs in Mindanao have written Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, urging her to probe into the “chronic absenteeism” in the House at it is “eroding public trust” and is a “public display of neglect of duty.”

“Please investigate this matter with outmost dispatch as it practically turns the legislative branch into a state of paralysis,” said the letter of complaint dated November 30 and received for Morales by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao in Davao City last December 1.

The letter said records of the House of Representatives “can easily prove the veracity of this complaint.”

The civil society groups asked Morales: “Are these honorable members of the House of Representatives exempt from basic government policy on reporting for duty? What is the policy for their absences? Can they still claim compensation even if they are absent from work? How come ordinary soldiers, policemen and teachers in far-flung areas can manage to report for work while our own lawmakers could not? Since when have they been exempt from reporting for work? The message that the House of Representatives is telling the Filipino people is loud and clear —‘We are above the law.”

Ferrer said she had just read the story about the COA auditor suspended for habitual tardiness “but nobody suspends a congressman or legislator for absenteeism.”

But Ferrer said they are “not giving up” in pushing for the BBL in Congress.

She asked the audience of journalists, students and members of the faculty at the auditorium of the UP Visayas’ city campus, to help call on members of the House of Representatives to “please, pumasok naman kayo di pa naman election” (please, attend sessions, it is not yet election).

Ferrer said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process is organizing a “text blast, e-mail blast, phone brigades, at saka tweets, Instagram, everything — use social media to contact all the different legislators and legislator and say ‘go to class, be there and give this process a chance.’”

“Help us tweet them. Use whatever you have sa social media” to get their representatives to attend the sessions.

The House has 291 members and 146 members are required to constitute a quorum. Since Congress resumed sessions on November 3, the period of interpellation at the House of Representatives has yet to resume, mostly because of lack of quorum.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has repeatedly urged Representatives to attend sessions but the problem of lack of quorum has persisted.

In October, House Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon set December 16 as their new target date to pass the BBL, the law that would pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The creation of the Bangsamoro is contained in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and MILF on October 15, 2012 and March 27, 2014, respectively. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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