Nominal, viva voce: How Congress votes

Jodesz Gavilan
Nominal, viva voce: How Congress votes
The public often pushes for nominal voting on controversial measures – the Reproductive Health bill and the restoration of the death penalty, among others – to immediately see how lawmakers voted

MANILA, Philippines – The whole of Mindanao will be under martial law until the end of 2018 after the 17th Congress, with both the Senate and the House of Representatives in joint session, approved on Wednesday, December 13, the request for extension of President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Aside from the extension of military rule, Congress also gave its go-signal to the continued suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. This means it will be legal in Mindanao to arrest persons of interest without a warrant for the whole of 2018.

In a letter to Congress, Duterte explained that the extension was needed “primarily to ensure total eradication of Daesh-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM), other like-minded Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups (L/FTGs) and Armed Lawless Groups (ALGs), and the communist terrorists (CTs) and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”

After 4 hours of deliberation, 240 legislators voted to approve the extension while 27 voted against. 

The decision was made through nominal voting – one of the two main voting methods used in the legislature of the Philippine government. 

Nominal voting in Congress happens when each legislator is called one by one and is asked for his or her vote on a measure. Their votes are recorded and usually appear in the legislature’s journal. 

The public and other legislators often push for nominal voting on controversial measures – the Reproductive Health bill (now law) and the restoration of the death penalty, among others – to immediately see how lawmakers voted.  

For example, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in 2012 wanted nominal voting on the RH bill “to maintain transparency.”

Once all votes are in, legislators are free to take the floor to explain their vote. According to the legislative process, this voting method is usually done only when a measure is already on its 3rd and final reading. 

Viva voce

Viva voce, a latin phrase, literally means oral and not written. 

Legislators, in chorus, respond to the question put forward by the Speaker of the House or the Senate President, or whoever is designated to preside over the session. The presiding officer asks the floor the two questions separately. If they agree or approve, they will respond “aye” or “yes” and “nay” or “no”, if not. 

No records will be available on how each legislator voted unless they reveal individually through a manifestation or are asked to stand.

This was how the House voted to give the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) a measly P1,000 ($198) budget in September 2017. The budget was eventually restored after a public backlash. (READ: How the House voted for a P1,000 CHR budget) – Rappler.com

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.