The House of Representatives’ next moves?
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas (The Freeman) - February 2, 2019 - 12:00am

Before January ended, despite heated arguments and strong opposition coming from various sectors (from the academe, scientists, experts, child rights advocates and the public) that lowering the age of criminality to 12 will do serious damage to a child’s growth and development, the HOR (House of Representatives) proceeded to approve House Bill 8858 anyway, with voting at 146 for and 34 against.

GMA publicly mentioned that Duterte preferred the lower minimum age. What happened to the independence of the HOR from the Executive? Oh, that is no longer asked because of the obvious subservience of all other branches to Duterte.

Under this present dispensation, one should also not be surprised why the HOR prioritizes an issue that is not as important as bills that need to address transparency and corruption. What can one expect of a HOR speaker like GMA, she of the Garci notoriety and other proven charges that sent her to jail before Duterte’s term?

What about bills that prioritize the welfare of our people, especially in the midst of price hikes, climate change, and conflicts? Do you think these are the next moves, the next bills to be tackled by the Duterte and GMA supporters in the HOR?

Surprise! Before the first month of this new year ended, again, the HOR adopted a resolution requiring plenary approval or majority consent for requests for a copy of the lawmaker’s SALNs (Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth)!

A request for a copy the SALN will be granted only if majority of the over 200 House members vote in favor of its disclosure in plenary. The consent of the concerned lawmaker is also required for any detailed SALN request.

And get this! House Resolution 2467 requires a P300 fee for every copy of the SALN requested! Why? The HOR’s rationale - to cover the cost of reproduction and certification, exclusive of mailing costs and other related expenses in the event that the request is approved!

Is that the real reason for the difficulty of accessing the SALN at the HOR? What do they have to hide?

Now that February has set in and before the May elections, what next moves do you think the HOR will be busy with?

There are those who have asked the public to be vigilant for a possible NOEL (no election scenario this May). Instead, there is so much buzz about CHACHA (charter change) or a shift to Federalism.

Do you think the HOR has forgotten that this a top priority of Duterte? Remember how CHACHA was also GMA’s top priority during her time? Who among their ranks will not want Federalism that will allow them longer tenure in office, and more perks, among others?

One has to mention the million-peso pork they may be getting for voting in favor of the Duterte priority bills?

The opposition House lawmakers, we hope, are monitoring the moves of the majority or GMA, Duterte supporters related to this plan for CHACHA. We hope media and anti-corruption advocates will be able to unearth and block anomalous deals and pork allocation among the undeserving, abusive lawmakers.

Not only the HOR - the Senate is worth careful watch too. It is not impossible to imagine a sudden, stealthy power play of votes and numbers in the Senate for priority bills of Duterte and GMA like CHACHA.

May more “learn to be brave, to stick together, and look after one another.” May the Church continue to be brave and protected in “conquering evil with good.”

Time for prayerful vigilance on everyone’s part.

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