Thursday, September 14, 2006

Junkets leave House deserted

By Maricel V. Cruz, Manila Times Reporter

Monday was a slow day at the House of Representatives, with less than 50 of the 233 members answering the roll call.

Without a quorum, presiding speaker Rep. Del de Guzman of Marikina adjourned the session a few minutes after it opened.

The absentees were either attending the 27th General Assembly of the Asean Interparliamentary Organization (AIPO) in Cebu City or have joined President Arroyo on her nine-day state visit to Europe and Northern America.

At least 30 congressmen attended the one-week AIPO conference, which opened Monday.

With the President are Davao Oriental’s Corazon Malanyaon, Pasay City’s Consuelo Dy, Quezon City’s Nanette Castello-Daza, Occidental Min­doro’s Ma. Amelita Villarosa, Quezon’s Danilo Suarez, Lanao del Sur’s Benasing Macarambon, Palawan’s Antonio Alvarez, Misamis Oriental’s Augusto Baculio, Negros Occidental’s Ignacio Arroyo and Bacolod City’s Monico Puentevella.

With Speaker Jose de Venecia at the AIPO meeting were Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, chairman of the Committee on Accounts; Roberto Cajes of Cebu City, chairman of the Committee on Ethics, Antonio Cuenco of Cebu, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations; Deputy Speaker for Visayas Raul del Mar; Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao, chairman of the Committee on Justice; Edgar Chatto of Cebu, chairman of the Committee on Tourism; Antonio Yapha of Cebu, Committee on Health; Eduardo Gullas of Cebu, Matias Defensor of Quezon City, Roque Ablan of Ilocos Norte, Mark Cojuangco of Pangasinan, Vincent Garcia of Davao City, Josefina Joson of Nueva Ecijia, Eduardo Zialcita of Parañaque, Lorna Silverio of Bulacan, Emmylou Taliño-Santos of North Cotabato, Simeon Kintanar of Cebu, Milagros Magsaysay of Zambales and Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon, to name a few.

Many congressmen admitted having a hard time attending Monday sessions because they were returning to Manila from their provinces after a long weekend.

Legislators hold sessions from Mondays to Wednesdays, and supposedly devote the rest of the week to being with their constituents.

“Vanishing tribe of congresspersons because of leaderlessism,” quipped Douglas Cagas of Davao City, House contingent head to the Electoral Tribunal.

“This makes it difficult to transact business in the plenary. We cannot start floor discussions on Charter change,” Cagas added.

This week is also shaping up to be a lethargic one for committee hearings.

For instance, at the budget hearing conducted by the Committee on Appropriations, only 7 of at least 150 committee members attended.

Normally, a congressman is entitled to a $300 (about P15,000) allowance a day when he goes on foreign trips. The amount covers food and hotel allowances.

But the nine House members accompanying the President were not given any allowance by the House, according to Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the Committee on Accounts.

Barbers said a lawmaker is given an allowance for official foreign trips if these have something to do with the events or affairs of the House

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