Civil society groups to Ombudsman: compel House members to attend sessions

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/03 December) — In what could be a first in Philippine history, civil society leaders asked the Ombudsman Thursday to oblige members of the House of Representatives to attend its sessions to ensure deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

House deliberations on the BBL have not resumed owing to frequent lack of quorum in Congress as the election season draws near.

“It is a matter of public knowledge for the past several months since Congress formally opened in July, sessions after sessions were suspended and adjourned at the House of Representatives for lack of quorum This can easily be verified with the official records and the live streaming coverage of the plenary session,” said members of civil society in a letter to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

In the letter, the civil society groups said [their] efforts to make the House members attend to the BBL have proved futile.

“This chronic absenteeism surely erodes public trust and is a public display of neglect of duty,” the signatories argued.

Lack of quorum has bogged down deliberations on the BBL at the House of Representatives.

“The only time a quorum was achieved since sessions resumed in July was when the chamber tackled the proposed Salary Standardization Law,” the letter noted.

“Are these honorable members of the House of Representatives exempt from 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?” asked the groups.

They also said “the fate of the BBL is no better at the Senate with debates moving at turtle speed. For instance, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile has been debating Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. for days on the definition of the term Bangsamoro and its implication to the various faiths in the autonomous region.”

“Marcos, moreover, is also guilty of not always being present during BBL deliberation days,” they added.

According to the complaint letter, the problem, or the lawmakers for that matter, seemed to be telling the Filipino people that “[we] are above the law” as they continue to turn the “legislative branch into a state of paralysis”.

Signatories to the letter include: United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc.; Moro Women Development and Cultural Center; Mindanao Action for Peace and Development Initatives; The Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace; Mindanao Humanitarian Development Initiatives; Kadtabanga Foundation, Inc.; RKCSED, Inc.;

Reconciliatory Initiatives for Development Opportunities, Inc.; Basilan Ulama Supreme Council; Ranao Institute for Peace and Development, Inc.; Basulta Contact Group, Inc.; Maguindanao Development Foundation, Inc.; Lupah Sug Advocates for Peace and Development; Local Initiatives for Peace and Development, Inc.;

Noorus Salam Central Mindanao; Mindanao People’s Caucus; Matawkasi, Inc.; Al-Amanah Humanitarian and Development Initiatives; Mindanao Action for Peace and Development Initiatives, Inc.; Ittihadun-Nisa Foundation; Bangsamoro Business Club; and Action for Advancement and Development of Mindanao. (MindaNews)