Atienza wants full lifting of prohibition on legislators' presence in plenary session

Published November 4, 2021, 12:16 PM

by Ben Rosario

Not only is Deputy Speaker and BUHAY Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza in favor of relaxing stringent restrictions against plenary hall presence of congressmen, he wants the prohibition lifted entirely so that all Lower House members can participate in actual lawmaking.

Deputy Speaker and Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza

“I really would strongly suggest that if we resume session by Monday (Nov. 8), we should be allowed to sit in the plenary hall. We must now treat the virus as a regular disease that should be avoided without disrupting the way we carry out our responsibilities,” said Atienza in an interview.

Atienza, who is running for vice president in the 2022 national elections, backed the proposal of several colleagues asking the House leadership to open the plenary hall to at least 60 percent of 307 congressmen listed in the chamber’s rolls.

But he wants each lawmaker to be given the freedom to be present in regular plenary sessions.

Earlier, Deputy Majority Leader Jesus “Bong” Suntay (4th District, Quezon City); Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino (Lone District, Tagaytay City) and Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan Partylist) aired the belief that it is now time to allow more lawmakers to participate actively on the floor through their presence in the plenary.

Ang Probinsyano Partylist Rep. Ronnie Ong said plenary hall attendance can even be increased to 70 percent of all Lower House members as long as everybody has received full COVID-19 vaccination.

The four lawmakers also noted that aside from ensuring that lawmakers have received full vaccination, they should also undergo antigen tests whenever they enter the session hall.

“I suggest that we hold regular sessions starting Monday (Nov. 8) face-to face in actual presence in the plenary. Continuing the session via zoom is a mockery of legislative intent and due process in the making of laws,” the veteran lawmaker said.

Atienza lamented that personal presence in legislative proceedings in the plenary hall have been limited to just 25 House members for over a year now.

It was Atienza who complained being ignored several times by the presiding officer of a session when he sought a chance to interpellate on a serious legislative issue being taken up on the floor then.

The lawmaker recalled he was not recognized to speak despite hitting the “raise hand” button while he attending the plenary session via zoom conference.

“We might as well go on a long vacation than participate in an exercise that ignores our right to comment on a pending piece of legislation,” he said.

“I resent the attitude of some chairmen who refuse to recognize those who want to speak. They are muted or just ignored. This is not the correct way of ensuring quality legislation,” said Atienza.

The Buhay Partylist lawmaker stressed that observance of virtual sessions should be discontinued as it frustrates legislators from guaranteeing the passage of quality laws, adding that it also prevents them from scrutinizing bills and “looking at the measure word for word, phrase by phrase” to ensure constitutionality, objectivity and fairness once enacted and implemented.