Deputy Speaker Neptali Gonzalez II is grossly mistaken in his defense of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s causing the:
Unprecedented and premature termination of the plenary deliberations on the 2021 proposed national budget;
Precipitate approval of the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) under HB No. 7727; and
Suspension of the plenary session for 40 days up to November 20, 2020.
Gonzalez and Cayetano both erred because:
The tradition of the House of Representatives is to schedule for two or even more weeks the plenary debates on the national budget in order that Representatives can fully scrutinize the respective budget proposals for the various government departments, offices and agencies, and to assure economy and judicious allocation of scarce resources.
With respect to the plenary consideration of the GAB, the rule on closure of debates under Rule 55 of the Rules of the House of Representatives is invariably invoked only on the last day of the scheduled budgetary deliberations when practically all of the respective budget proposals of the different departments and agencies have been debated on and scrutinized, unlike what happened last Tuesday, October 6, 2020, when no less than the proposed budgets of 14 major departments and other numerous agencies and offices, including the constitutional commissions and the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), have not been considered.
Section 16 (5) of Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits either Chamber of the Congress to adjourn for more than three (3) days without the consent of the other is mandatory, contrary to the opinion of Gonzalez that the subject provision is “merely directory” and has “no obligatory force”.
This constitutional provision is couched in mandatory tenor as it uses the compulsory word “shall”. The section provides in full:
“Neither House during the sessions of the Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.”
Constitutional provisions must be respected. The Speaker is not above the Constitution.
Moreover, it is a futile exercise in semantical gymnastics to argue that “suspension” is not “adjournment” even when the House went on recess for 40 days without the consent of the Senate.
Verily, a suspension of more than three days or up to 40 days is an adjournment in contemplation of the pertinent constitutional provision.
The advanced suspension of the plenary sessions of the House from the afternoon of October 6, 2020 to November 15, 2020 patently violates Concurrent Resolution No. 11, adopted by the House and the Senate, which provides for the “Legislative Calendar for the Second Regular Session of the Eighteenth Congress”, wherein the first suspension of session starts only on October 17, 2020 to November 15, 2020.
It is errant to claim that Cayetano’s utter disregard of the fixed calendar is the “prerogative of the House.”
What are Concurrent Resolutions for if they are not binding on the House and can be disregarded by the Speaker upon his sole option without the concurrence of the Senate in order to effect an amendment to the Resolution?
The rules of the House bind the leadership and they cannot be amended arbitrarily or whimsically, contrary to the assertion of Gonzalez that “when the plenary decides something, that automatically becomes the rule.”
EDCEL C. LAGMAN