A Disgrace Called the 14th Congress

The Freedom of Information Bill, had it been ratified by the House of Representatives and signed into law would have made journalists’ jobs easier, particularly when uncovering and helping curb corruption.  At face value, this would be the immediate benefit of the bill.

But really, the failure of the House to perform the responsibility of ratification is not the sole loss of journalists.  It is the great loss of 90 million Filipinos who have been betrayed by their representatives, specifically the 139 congressmen who were absent and did not show up for session.

Public access to records and access to accurate and relevant information are a cornerstone and requirement of democracy.  Access to information ensures transparency in all government activities. Our trapo congressmen, through their inaction, have only proven that they don’t care about these.

As a former correspondent at the House, I had witnessed first hand how solons railroaded bills even if, just by looking at the session hall, it is obvious that there are not enough warm bodies to make a quorum.  During non-controversial political seasons, the House of would just do the roll call every Monday to formally establish the quorum.  There would be no adjournment; just a suspension of the day’s session.  And, coming from a suspension from the previous day, solons are able to start session anew the following day without needing to make the roll call again.  They just follow the attendance from the previous day.  Clever of them, right?  Which means they would be free to railroad their favorite pet bills — renaming a street or school after a relative and the like even if there are just 30 congressmen on the floor.  The quorum would only be questioned as a delaying tactic and not because it violates procedure.  It is questioned only when a controversial bill is being passed or railroaded.  So without any real roll call on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a number of congressmen are able to hang out at  their lounge, stay at their office, or skip session altogether.  The worst, I remember, is that quorum would be questioned because some Congressmen already wish to go home. And I even remember how session would start at 4:00 and end just 30 or 45 minutes later because of a lack of quorum.

They just adjourn on Wednesdays to resume session the following week.

And yet, no one is absent when pork is released.  Congressmen are there when the budget is being deliberated.  And no one wonders why the House leadership of this outgoing congress suddenly has the political will and is able to ensure attendance when it needed to cast a vote with regard to impeachment complaints against PGMA.

And yet, when a bill that secures access to information for the public is deliberated — a bill most important to our democracy — more than 100 lawmakers are absent.  What a pity.  What a disgrace.

I am angry.  Not because the quorum was questioned.  I mean, whatever the bill is, who wants a railroaded bill?  My being angry — our fury — has to do with something fundamental.  It’s the basic fact that more than 100 congressmen were absent.  It’s knowing that instead of attending to a bill of national importance, congressmen were not doing their jobs.  To play golf?  To be on vacation?  We don’t know.  But what we know is their term ends on June 30.  Which means, they still have jobs to do.

We voters and taxpayers put them there to do their job.  It is their obligation to be in session every single day.  Can each and every congressman truly justify their absence with an official function?  They all need to explain.  If they received invitations to important official functions, what are these functions?  And they still should have anticipated that such a bill would be put on the floor.

The House and the Senate should not have waited up to the last minute in deliberating and ratifying the bill.

Proponents of the bill have accused the Palace of being behind the failure to ratify the bill.  When you connect the dots, the allegation is not far-fetched.  Access to information, after all, would mean that the public would have access to evidence that could tag the Arroyo administration to what anti-Gloria forces have been wanting to do for a long time — prove Gloria’s guilt.  And who could discount the absence of the president’s relatives who are members of the house were all absent.

How funny it is that the Palace, days before the non-ratification, had called on the House to prioritize and ratify the bill.  Really now. Was Malacanang really serious about a bill that it did not even certify as urgent?  Or was it all just a press release as usual?

The sad thing is, access to information would give us the country the chance to verify information being presented.  It will help the public avoid wasting time and taxpayer’s money on baseless exposes and allegations in the future, a number of which distracted us in the past nine years as well.

Absent congressmen need a lot of explaining to do.  They need to be held accountable.  In fact, I would urge people not to vote for them in 2013.

The challenge is for the incoming House leadership to be stricter with attendance.  For one thing, we’ve made several stories in the past about threats of speakers to withhold lawmakers’ pork barrel if they are frequent absentees.  Let’s see if the new leadership will really show political will and do this.

With a new government starting June 30, with a new president and vice president being proclaimed tomorrow, it is our hope that the Freedom of Information Bill would be refiled in the 15th congress.  Let it be the first bill to be filed.  May the members of the  incoming congress prove that they are worthy stewards of democracy.  I also hope that the new administration will certify it as urgent.

Let me use this space to spread the information on the disgraced traitors to democracy.  To be fair, notice that it’s a mixed list — and not just comprised of administration congressmen.  The betrayers are from different sides of the political fence.  Thanks to them, curbing corruption has once more taken the back seat.  When I think about it, they are all as good as corrupt because they did not support a bill that would help curb corruption.

1.Abaya, Joseph Emilio A.
2.Agbayani, Victor Aguedo E.
3.Agyao, Manuel S.
4.Albano, Rodolfo III T.
5.Alcover Pastor Jr. M
6.Almario, Thelma Z.
7.Alvarez, Antonio C.
8.Amante, Edelmiro A.
9.Amatong, Rommel C.
10.Angping, Maria Zenaida B.
11.Aquino, Jose II S.
12.Arnaiz, George P.
13.Arquiza, Godofredo V.
14.Arroyo, Diosdado M.
15.Arroyo, Ignacio T.
16.Arroyo, Maria Lourdes T.
17.Balindong, Pangalian M.
18.Barzaga, Elpidio Jr. F.
19.Bautista, Franklin P.
20.Bichara, Al Francis C.
21.Biron, Ferjenel G.
22.Bondoc, Anna York P.
23.Bravo, Narciso Jr. R.
24.Briones, Nicanor M.
25.Britanico, Salvador B.
26.Cagas, Marc Douglas IV C.
27.Cajayon, Mary Mitzi L.
28.Canonigo, Ranulfo P.
29.Castro, Fredenil H.
30.Celeste, Arthur F.
31.Chiongbian, Erwin L.
32.Chong, Glenn A.
33.Clarete, Marina P.
34.Climaco, Mara Isabelle G.
35.Cobrador, Ceasar A.
36.Cojuangco, Mark O.
37.Coscolluela, Ma. Carissa O.
38.Dangwa, Samuel M.
39.Dayanghirang, Nelson L.
40.Daza, Paul R.
41.De Venecia, Jose Jr. C.
42.Diasnes, Carlo Oliver D.
43.Dimaporo, Abdullah D.
44.Duavit, Michael John R.
45.Dumarpa, Faysah RPM
46.Durano, Ramon VI H.
47.Dy, Faustino III G.
48.Enverga, Wilfrido Mark M.
49.Estrella, Conrado III
50.Estrella, Robert Raymund M.
51.Fabian, Erico Basillo A.
52.Fernandez, Danilo Ramon S.
53.Ferrer, Jeffrey P.
54.Fua, Orlando B.
55.Fuentebella, Arnulfo P.
56.Garcia, Albert S.
57.Garcia, Pablo P.
58.Garcia, Pablo John F.
59.Gatchalian, Rex
60.Gonzales, Aurelio Jr. D.
61.Gonzales, Neptali II M.
62.Gonzalez, Raul Jr. T.
63.Guanlao, Agapito H.
64.Gullas, Eduardo R.
65.Gunigundo, Magtanggol I.T.
66.Hataman, Mujiv S.
67.Hernandez, Ariel C.
68.Hofer, Ann K.
69.Ilagan, Luzviminda C.
70.Jala, Adam Relson R.
71.Jalosjos, Cesar G.
72.Jalosjos-Carreon, Cecilia G.
73.Jikiri, Yusop H.
74.Kho, Antonio T.
75.Lacson, Jose Carlos V.
76.Lagdameo, Antonio Jr. F.
77.Lazatin, Carmelo F.
78.Ledesma, Julio IV A.
79.Leonen-Pizarro, Catalina G.
80.Lim, Teodoro
81.Lopez, Carol Jayne B.
82.Lopez, Jaime C.
83.Macapagal-Arroyo, Juan Miguel
84.Malapitan, Oscar G.
85.Mamba, Manuel N.
86.Maranon, Alfredo III D.
87.Marcoleta, Rodante D.
88.Martinez
89.Matugas, Francisco T.
90.Mendoza, Raymond DC
91.Mendoza, Vigor Ma. D
92.Mercado, Roger G.
93.Miraflores, Florencio T.
94.Nava, Joaquin Carlos Rahman A.
95.Nicolas, Reylina G.
96.Omar, Haron D.
97.Palparan, Jovito Jr S.
98.Pancho, Pedro M.
99.Pancrudo, Candido Jr. P.
100.Pingoy, Arthur Jr. Y.
101.Plaza, Rodolfo G.
102.Ponce-Enrile, Salvacion S.
103.Prieto-Teodoro, Monica
104.Puno, Roberto V.
105.Ramiro, Herminia M.
106.Remulla, Jesus Crispin C.
107.Reyes, Carmencita O.
108.Reyes, Victoria H.
109.Robes, Arturo B.
110.Rodriguez-Zaldirriaga, Adelina
111.Romarate, Guillermo Jr. A.
112.Romualdez, Ferdinand Martin G.
113.Romulo, Roman T.
114.Roxas, Jose Antonio F.
115.Salvacion, Andres Jr., D.
116.Santiago, Narciso III D.
117.Santos, Estrella DL.
118.Sarmiento, Ulpiano II P.
119.Seachon-Lanete, Rizalina L.
120.Singson, Ronald V.
121.Solis, Jose G.
122.Suarez, Danilo E.
123.Sy-Alvarado, Ma. Victoria R.
124.Talino-Mendoza, Emmylou J.
125.Tan, Sharee Ann T.
126.Teodoro, Marcelino R.
127.Teves, Pryde Henry A.
128.Tieng, Irwin C.
129.Tomawis
130.Tupas, Niel Jr. C.
131.Umali, Czarina D.
132.Uy, Edwin C.
133.Uy, Rolando A.
134.Uy, Reynaldo S.
135.Valdez, Edgar L.
136.Villar, Cynthia A.
137.Villarosa, Ma. Amelita C.
138.Yu, Victor L.
139.Zamora, Ronaldo B.

(source of list: House of Representatives)

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