By Ellson Quismorio
A supposed effort to undo changes made during the previous 17th Congress is among the factors holding up the constitution of House panels in the current 18th Congress.
House Minority Bloc member, Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin had this to say Wednesday when asked to comment on the snail-paced composition of the all-important committees two weeks into the resumption of sessions.
“I believe the contention lies on the fact that there were a lot of changes and precedents in the 17th Congress and the leadership would like it back to the old Congress,” Garin said during the bloc’s weekly press conference. She did not elaborate.
Virtually none of the 60 standing committees and 15 special committees has been completely formed, although panel chairmen, vice-chairmen, and members are slowly being designated to their posts.
As a result, committee hearings on bills–which make up the bulk of work in the House of Representatives–have yet to be started in the 18th Congress. Over 2,000 bills have been filed so far.
“We are already in the process of organizing. On the part of the Minority, we have submitted our complete list with regards to membership in each committee; we are awaiting the Majority,” Garin said.
“Siguro sa dami ng mga kongresista at sa dami ng mga partido rin ay medyo natatagalan (The sheer number of congressmen and political parties is making the process long),” added the lady solon.
There are 305 sitting House members, of which 26 are with the Minority led by Manila 6th district Rep. Benny Abante.
Minority stalwarts have a vital role to fill since a committee hearing cannot begin unless there’s at least one of them present.
Minority Leader Abante, for his part, said he has actually requested the Majority Leader, Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez, “to fast-track the completion” of the powerful Committee on Rules.
“Traditionally, kailangan kumpletuhin muna yan. Afterwards, the committee chairmanships ang kasunod niyan (That has to be completed first. The designation of committee chairmanships will follow). We’re just trying to follow the system,” Abante said. Romualdez chairs the Rules panel.
Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano sits as Speaker of the House. He took over from former president, Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who served as Speaker during the final leg of the 17th Congress.
The uncertainties regarding the House Speakership following the midterm polls last May also contributed to the belated constitution of committees, observers said.