MANILA, Philippines – “They will always say the things that they want, but in the end, it is the will of the majority that decides.”
Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said on Monday, February 20, that administration-allied congressmen have agreed to terminate the plenary debate on the controversial death penalty measure by February 28. (READ: Fariñas: Death penalty debate ends when majority bloc says so)
This is a week earlier than the original deadline set by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
The decision, agreed upon during a majority caucus, came after the anti-death penalty lawmakers’ insistence that there should always be a quorum every time a congressman speaks for or against House Bill (HB) 4727 on the floor.
Section 75 of the Rules of the House of Representatives states that congressmen cannot transact business without the presence of a majority during the session. (READ: Lagman: Anti-death penalty lawmakers ‘not beholden’ to Fariñas)
“While a member has the right to speak on the floor, he does not have the right to require that majority of all the members are there to listen to him. Because if his arguments or what he’s saying is not interesting, the members will rather go somewhere else, right?” said Fariñas.
“So we will advance the voting to February 28, Tuesday. So I give them until Tuesday to maintain quorum to listen to them,” he added.
This means that the House will only be debating on HB 4727 for less than a month, since justice panel chairperson Reynaldo Umali sponsored the measure for second reading on February 7.
In the course of the death penalty debate so far, there was a quorum whenever the roll call of members was made at the start of every session.
But several congressmen would later leave the session hall, prompting opposition lawmakers to always question if there is still enough attendance to continue.
For Fariñas, the burden of ensuring the quorum during the death penalty debate now rests on the opposition bloc.
“They are the ones speaking against the bill. The sponsors are done. The ones in favor of the bill are done speaking. They are the ones who claim they want to interpellate because they are against the bill, so they should maintain that,” said Fariñas.
“How can I force people to listen to their points if the people already made up their minds [that] they want to vote on it?” he added.
The House majority bloc has also agreed to water down HB 4727 to just include 9 crimes – plunder, treason, and 7 drug-related offenses. – Rappler.com