Questions on House sec-gen's power to delist solons still unresolved

The House of Representatives' Legal Affairs Department has yet to respond to the questions raised against the House secretary-general's power to remove a duly-elected and proclaimed congressman from the chamber's official roster.

(Ellson Quismorio/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Congressman-elect Romeo Jalosjos Jr., who represents Zamboanga del Norte's 1st district, in a letter to Deputy Secretary-General, lawyer Annalou Nachura sought a written answer on the clarificatory questions raised in the plenary last Dec. 15, 2022 by fellow Nacionalista Party (NP) stalwart Surigao del Norte 2nd Rep. Robert Ace Barbers in relation to his removal from the roll.

"This representation respectfully seeks a written answer to the foregoing parliamentary inquiry as this affects the status of my membership, in view of resolving the seeming gaps in the interpretation of the Constitution and the Rules of the House of Representatives so as not to set an erroneous precedence for the future House members," the letter, dated Dec. 23, 2022, read.

"Despite clarity of the provisions of the Constitution and the rules of the House, this representation and the constituency of the 1st district of Zamboanga del Norte continues to be deprived of our right to representation in the august halos of the legislature due to the illegal deletion of my name in the roll of members when my proclamation is put in question," added Jalosjos.

"I do not intend to discount the competency of the Legal Affairs Department and the Committee on Rules. However, sound and faithful interpretation of the Constitution and the Rules of the House of Representatives dictates that I am a bona fide member of the House of Representatives in the 19th Congress," he further said.

"I implore the Congress to uphold its mandate to its members and constituents without partiality and to reinstate this representation in the roll of members for the 19th Congress," he added.

Barbers, in his parliamentary inquiry, asked if the secretary-general who was elected by members of the previous 18th Congress can hold office beyond the constitutional term of Congress that elected him/her, and "by what constitutional or legal authority did he exercise his being a de facto secretary general or beyond June 30, 2022?"

The 19th Congress began on June 30, 2022. At this time, Mark Llandro Mendoza, who was elected during the 18th Congress, was still the House secretary-general.

Even assuming that the services of the secretary general beyond June 30, 2022 was legal, Barbers asked the powers he/she is allowed to exercise between June 30, 2022 until the organization of the next Congress on the fourth Monday of July 2022, or during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the newly-elected President, who in this case was Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

It was only after Marcos's first SONA on July 25, 2022 that Mendoza was replaced by incumbent Secretary-General Reginald Velasco.

Barbers noted that under Sec.16, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, only the concurrence of two-thirds of all members of the House may suspend or expel a member, and the provision of Sec, 4 of the House Rules that any member proclaimed winner by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and assumed office on June 30 following the election, whose validity of proclamation is put in question in any judicial or administrative body shall remain a member of the House of Representatives absent the final and executory judgement of the appropriate judicial or administrative body.

While the secretary-general has the ministerial duty to accept duly-elected candidates proclaimed by the Comelec, Barbers was compelled to ask if the de facto secretary-general has the power or authority to delist any member from the roll of duly-elected representatives after assuming office on June 30, despite having submitted the Certificate of Proclamation and Oath of Office.