Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza has called out the House leadership to allow more congressmen to attend in-person sessions and plenary debates on vital pieces of legislation, including the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for next year.
Atienza said that rather than limit the participation to deliberations to his peers, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano should come up with protocols that would allow the gradual reopening of the Lower House to more legislators and transition from legislating from a distance.
Atienza accused Cayetano of conveniently using COVID-19 to exclude the majority of the lawmakers from doing their duties.
“COVID-19 is being used as a convenient excuse to prevent a great number of lawmakers from effectively carrying out their responsibilities as representatives of the people while allowing only a few to personally participate and monopolize the deliberations,” said Atienza.
To date, only 25, including senior citizens, out of the 304 House members are allowed to attend the plenary session in Batasan Hills, while the rest could only attend via video conference platform Zoom.
According to Atienza, attendees need prior permission from the Speaker to be able to participate physically in the House plenary.
The former Mayor of Manila stressed that since March, only the same set of people have been attending committee hearings and plenary sessions in Congress.
“Pare-pareho lang ang mukha ng dumadalo sa hearing at session. Sila lang ba ang mga elected representatives of the people?” said Atienza.
He said “it is about time the House leadership reopen Congress to members who may wish to attend the session in person, subject to strict health protocols.”
Atienza reminded Cayetano that “Congress is a collegial body” and should not be limited only to his henchmen.
“Yung mga negosyo ay pinayagan ng magbukas pero ang Kongreso pitong buwan na nakasara pa rin sa aming mambabatas. Ano ba itinatago ni Speaker Cayetano at ng mga kagrupo nya?” Atienza stressed.
“It is the duty of the House leadership to make Congress safe enough for members to honor their constitutional duty to the Filipino people and conduct critical business in person,” he said. (CMC)