By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Albay first district Rep. Edcel Lagman reminded his colleagues on Sunday, March 22, that before the House of Representatives can conduct a virtual plenary session, and go on distance electronic voting, the present or existing Rules of the Lower Chamber should be first amended.
He said while, he expressed support for the “innovative” virtual plenary session, any new system “must be validly adopted” pursuant to the existing House Rules.
“The Rule is that there should be no new system without it first being adopted under the existing Rules which invariably require the physical presence of Members in the Plenary Hall for the purpose of establishing a quorum and recording the requisite vote on an issue or matter, ” he said in a three-page letter to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano dated March 22.
“The pertinent existing Rules should first be used and followed to introduce the innovations,” Lagman said.
He explained that the projected new system cannot not be used as the platform to suspend or amend the Rules in violation of Section 112 of Rule XIV of the Rules of the House, which provides that “[a] vote of two-thirds of the Members present, there being a quorum, is required to suspend any rule.”
He said Section 164 of Rule XXVII provides that “any provision of these Rules, except those that are also embodied in the Constitution, may be amended by a majority vote of all the Members of the House.”
“May I respectfully suggest that the adoption of the subject new system is an amendment to the Rules which requires a more stringent absolute majority of all the Members or 50 percent plus one of 302 Representatives,” Lagman said.
“Let me emphasize, Mr. Speake, that the current practice and tradition, which are part of the Rules of the House, dictate that sessions and voting must be conducted inside the Plenary Hall,” he stressed.
He observed that no less than the proponents of the subject new system are proposing for the suspension or amendment of the present Rules to effectuate the new system.
“Accordingly, after the amendment to the Rules is validly effected, the new system on virtual session and distance voting can be used during the special session on Monday, 23 March 2020. But not before the requisite valid amendment because the cart cannot be placed before the horse,” Lagman said.