(For background on tonight’s events, see Newsbreak; and the PCIJ blog, including their December 2 entry)
At around 8 pm I received a call from a colleague saying the House leadership had finally mustered a quorum, and that the rules of the House would be changed by 9 pm. By 9:30 pm the news was official: House amends House rules on Charter change.
(The Rules of the House are online: see the rules on changing the Constitution that were just amended tonight; see also Rule 150 and the rules that covered how bills are deliberated upon by the House, 1st, 2nd, 3rd readings, etc. now dispensed with for resolutions).
A source at the House of Representatives says that since the leadership has the numbers, they will attempt to proceed with convening the House as a Constituent Assembly, and pass a resolution proposing amendments to the Constitution tonight. The original strategy was to amend the rules tonight, and then wait to go through the motions of debating amendments to the Constitution tomorrow. But as the source said, “it would be cheaper to do it all now.” (Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban retires tomorrow.)
10:21 pm Rep. Escudero is making a motion to amend Sec. 150 and 151 of the rules, to require publication of any changes in a newspaper in 15 days before it becomes effective. Rep Villafuerte objects, saying Escudero has violated a previous agreement to merely make a manifestation. Escudero reiterates his motion; Rep. Paras (now thoroughly batting for the administration) raised a point of order; Escudero moves and for a roll call vote.
10:23 Session suspended.
Ricky Carandang says on ANC that having lost one battle, the minority strategy will be to question every move by the majority, in the hopes that the majority members will lose interest and start going home.
10:41 Coverage resumes. Majority Leader Defensor is arguing roll call is not required for the motion Escudero made: “roll call vote is not a right as far as amending the rules is concerned.”
10:43 Chair rules to uhplold the Majority Leader; Escudero manifests opposition: says majority in earlier amendment of rules said they would have a roll call vote to establish absolute majority, asks why a minority motion won’t be according a roll call vote either. Escudero says a precedent was established by the majority’s wanting a roll call vote to prove they had the numbers. Formally appeals ruling of the Chair.
10:45 Defensor replies “we have no intention to change the rules for the minority different from the rules for the majority…” says it was incorrect for Escudero to say what he did, because he’d moved for nominal voting and the minority did not object -the majority did, which is why roll call vote took place. Moves for division of the House. Point of order by Cayetano: an appeal of ruling cannot be superseded except by motion to adjourn or point of personal privilege (N.B. for the hierarchy of motions, refer to the rules). Chair calls for division of the House…
Chair (Rep. Salapuddin): Those in favor of the appeal of minority say “Aye!”
– thunderous “Aye” from majority.
Chair: Those against, say “Nay!”
-few voices squeak “Nay!”.
Chair says motion was carried; Escudero rushes to microphone: says the motion was phrased to actually support minority- majority congressmen start making catcalls. Confusion breaks out.
10:49 Session suspended after hooting breaks out.
10:59 Source at House says session remains suspended as recriminations over how Salapuddin bungled things have broken out within administration ranks.
11:02 Ricky Carandang reporting from the House confirms the above. Says leadership now figuring out if “vote is binding or not”. Says the game plan is, once a Constituent Assembly resolution is approved, the Senate will be informed, and be given three days to act (presumably, if Senate doesn’t move, the House will then proceed on its own). See Philippine Commentary on the rule change approved this evening. See GMAnews.tv report as well.
11:36 Ricky Carandang reports majority leadership huddled in a closed-door meeting. Minority meeting in a huddle on session floor. John Osmeña materializes in the House (he’s a former congressman besides a senator) and intones that “we are witnessing the murder of democracy…” and says a dictatorship is a-borning. Carandang says Osmeña rushed over (a quick dresser: he’s in a double-breasted suit). John O. expressing himself in colorful language (“talagang garrrrrrrrapal!”) Explains flaws in House arguments and assumptions rather well.
11:49 John O. being cagey about Senators Enrile and Defensor eventually showing up to support House move, but says Revilla and Lapid certainly will support the House move. Dinky has fun over how majority got confused; Carandang says House employees commenting among themselves: majority would have done better if they had a better presiding officer, apparently they consider Salappudin a disaster.
11:56 Session resumes. Escudero making manifestation regarding how process is being railroaded. Says tomorrow is another day; points out Rep. Gidaya died yesterday and tradition has been for House to adjourn out of respect; appeals for debate to take place tomorrow.
Salapuddin: Manifestation is noted. Defensor moves for suspension for 1 minute. Session suspended again. Peculiar sight: one congressman is wearing a trenchcoat.
12:05 am Speaker de Venecia appears on the House floor and is in a huddle with opposition congressmen. Edcel Lagman interviewed over the phone says there is Supreme Court decision (Gonzales vs. Comelec) that says when Congress tackles constitutional amendments, it becomes a different animal, a constituent assembly and so “there is no justification for voting separately). Says his colleagues are impatient and want to finish things tonight. But says pros and cons can be decided ultimately by the Supreme Court.
12:19 Session resumed. Administration congressman denounces
Escudero: says he made his appeal to postpone discussion for tomorrow “before midnight, and now it is after midnight, so his wishes have been met… Let’s not prolong the agony anymore, Mr. Speaker.”
Escudero: since my appeal has been rejected, minority intends to prevent the rush; we appeal again, and if rejected, we will engage you in the Mother of All Debates.
Cayetano weighs in on a question of collective and personal privilege. Our rights have been violated; Defensor inquires what rights? Cayetano says he will make a speech: harrassment, threats, etc. ;
Defensor: if that’s so, I will register to my objection.
Cayetano: my motion has priority.
Defensor: no dispute on precedence of motion; what I am questioning is whether the objection pertains to recent events or not; Cayetenao objects to the objection; Defensor: I raise a point of order: the reason is not provided for in the rules.
Cayetano: the Majority is not only out of order, this is midnight madness! Paras tries to jump in.
Salapuddin: Chair has to approve your request to raise a question of privilege, and I deny it.
Cayetano: you cannot deny me permission to rise on a point of personal privilege.
Defensor: the Chair has the privilege of saying no. Chair rules to deny Cayetano’s point of privilege. Congressmen (opposition) erupt in outrage.
12:28 Session suspended.
12:30 Session resumed. Attempt to interpolate Defensor thwarted by Chair. Defensor tries, I think, to make motion to adjourn; Cayetano insists on making a manifestation; Chair relents. Cayetano expounds on why rules exist, as much to protect minority as to smoothen way for majority. Says rule cannot stop a member to raise a point of privilege but that the chair must recognize the member seeking to do so, purely to maintain order. Becomes impassioned and receives smattering of applause. Says public deserves to hear debates, regardless of how it ends up, during the day and not have House make such significant moves in the dead of night.
A lawyer texted me now, saying he’s following this blog. Says Lagman ignorant of more recent cases. The case he cited is from 1967 and superseded by Imbong vs. Comelec in 1970 “where the court ruled that, Congress, when acting as a constituent assembly votes separately.”
12:38 Defensor makes motion on Cayetano appeal: Chair calls for vote. Obviously Cayetano loses. Defensor moves for consideration of House Resolution to propose amendments. Defensor calls on Rep. Jaraula to defend the draft…
Outburst from Guingona, session suspended at 12:41…
12:59 Session resumes. Defensor recapitulates how Chair ruled Cayetano was out of order, and Guingona appealed, which the Chair has to rule on. Chair says Guingona has five minutes to explain.
Guingona: Rule 65 prevents resolution from being tackled on the floor. Why? 105 was amended by roll call vote; says Rule 65 still stands, so to proceed with resolution, Rule 65 now has to be amended in the same manner Rule 105 was amended. Otherwise, resolution must be referred to committee. Railroading! Railroading!
1:06 Defensor responds. House Resolution in question and under consideration, was considered and sent to plenary prior to amendment of Rule 105. It followed procedure according to Rule 65. So there is no procedural defect and does not suffer from any procedural infirmity; it was considered in committee, referred to Committee on Rules, reported back, sent to plenary, etc. I move for a division of the House on appeal by Guingona of Chair’s ruling.
Chair calls for viva voce vote; Nays have it, appeal is lost.
Golez rises and begins quibbling over committee report that approved the resolution draft… Point of Order: committee on Constitutional Amendment has 45 members but report says there were 56 members (and not deputized members who are listed separately(. This is an irregular report.
Jaraula: All those listed as members of the committee were duly elected in plenary.
Golez: How? Rules state committee only has 45 members? Not 56.
Jaraula: Membership can be increased by election of additional members in plenary, unless objection recorded and Golez did not object.
Golez: I want to see the Journal of the House…
Jaraula: This is not the time to question that. He already raised question in the committee. After so many months this is not the time to take that up.
Chair: I think your point of order has been adequately addressed. Golez objects. Chair tries to smoothen things by asking Jaraula if he’ll provide papers to Golez; Jaraula refuses and says Golez can look for records himself; Chair tries to smoothen things out again; Jaraula won’t budge -Golez can do his own work and says congressmen should know how to go through records “without being spoonfed!” Golez objects; Chair says this has all been debated to death; Golez wants to see documents explaining how committee membership increased…. Jaraula says he’s answered this.
A rather impatient Nograles intervenes: we have adequately answered Golez. Point of order is misplaced.
Chair: we adopt the position taken by the Majority Floor Leader.
Escudero: takes up Golez baton. (We therefore embark on tag-team objections).
Nograles reiterates previous majority arguments. What rule is violated when all nominations to committees are proposed by both majority and minority. Escudero replies, then furnish us document to prove your argument the majority approved additional members without minority objection. But until you show that document, we must object. Nograles: well, committee additions takes place all the time, so now we will have to refer to the journal, but there has never been an instance when committee members were proposed by the majority without a corresponding opportunity for the minority. Escudero asks: if you say so, but if you can’t produce the documents, would you then agree that the committee report would be defective, since there would be no proof to show the committee was enlarged in a regular manner? Nograles: No, I cannot agree.
1:24 This has all been discussed enough, moving on… Golez makes another inquiry -is it normal to keep changing committee composition? Nograles: not normal, but legal when it happens. Jaraula: all these occured with the benefit of a quorum so what’s the problem? Escudero: if you’re confident there was an absolute majority, then we can wait for your producing proof; but my question is the proof isn’t there, then you have to admit the report would be defective, no? Jaraula: everything was regular and it’s in the journal, it’s not for me to give him copies of documents of which he received copies when originally distributed.
Chair tries to smoothen things. Escudero reiterates he only wants majority to accept his assumption that no proof of an absolute majority existing when committees were enlarged then it would prove his point. Nograles: we can cross that bridge when we get there, but without the documents you cannot ask us to render an opinion based on a hypothetical situation. Escudero: we will raise this at the proper time.
Rep. CasiÃƒÂ±o takes up baton. Resolution says it aims revision of the constitution. How many votes are necessary to approve House Resolution 1230?
Nograles: We need 3/4 of all members of Congress… Any motion done pursuant to this resolution will be approved only by a majority of the quorum present…
CasiÃƒÂ±o: If rules are to be followed, so 195 bodies on the floor this morning for this resolution to be approved.
Nograles: Tonight is not to propose specific amendments to this Constitution. The proposal and business for the day cites Resolution 1230, if you allow sponsor to talk about it, all your questions will be clarified. Therefore I move we recognize Jaraula to start his sponsorship.
(Casino asks, so we will tackle this resolution?) Nograles: Yes, subject to some incidental motions that Rep. Jaraula will explain…
1:34 Chair: if only we allowed sponsorship remarks we wouldn’t need all these questions…
Butz Aquino: But out of 54 members, only 26 signed, less than half; of ex-officio, only 6 have signed; only 32 in total so less than half, so report can’t be tackled.
Jaraula: We complied with the rules and to show it, we calendared it, and so, if you object, you should have done it long ago.
Aquino: Count it. Not enough signatures.
1:37 Chair: Session suspended to verify signatures. Session resumes almost immediately. Jaraula and Aquino go over copies and count signatures per page…. Wrangling between two explained by Jaraula as due to unclear xerox copies…
Jaraula: 30 regular members.
Aquino: And ex-officio? They don’t count?
Jaraula: They only get counted for purposes of a quorum.
Aquino: Notice no minority signatures.
Jaraula: They snubbed it. Went around for a month.
Aquino: They did not circulate. Anyway, 6 out of 24 ex officio signed; and no minority; of 95 members only 36 names signed, this is clearly less than 50% requirement (or 48).
Jaraula: At any rate we have the number and the signatures. Aquino chuckles….
Jaraula: We cannot wait for people who dilly dally! As long as we have numbers required, then we file!
Aquino: To approve the report, 48 needed to sign.
Jaraula: Gentleman did not know procedures. He didn’t know that ex-officio members who didn’t attend can’t be counted, so majority is based on who are present, personally or through designated; the figure of 96 is “imaginary, sometimes, fantastic.”
Aquino: Aw, c’mon.
Chair explains that committees only count regular members and not ex-officio in counting and approving reports.
1:45 Rep. Acosta: Here’s a prejudicial question. If we amended Rule 105 and deleted last sentence, what, now, governs this entire process? If we’ve removed procedure for bills, what now, is the procedure for adopting or rejecting proposals for constitutional amendments?
Jaraula: See Rule 104. Proposals for constitutional amendments will be carried by a vote of 3/4 of all members of Congress….
(both reiterate their points)
Acosta: But if you follow procedure to approve this resolution, then we’re at 2nd reading… You’re saying we will have interpolations which is procedure for deliberating on a bill, but I thought we dispensed with all that.
Chair: If we could move on, during sponsorship speech your questions would be answered.
Jaraula: We will take that up at the proper time.
Acosta: Huh? Do we use procedure for tackling bills or not?
Chair wants to move on; Acosta says he’s made a Point of Information inquiry.
Escudero: I volunteer to explain… (launches into speech reviewing the issue). We dispensed with that portion of rule, but we will still follow rules, with sponsorship, period of interpolation, etc. But if so, then why did we amend the rule? Jaraula should explain.
Jaraula and Chair say they will answer when sponsorship speech is made… Escudero: No, really, if we will use bill procedure, why did we amend the rules?
Jaraula: launches into his sponsorship speech anyway. Report proposes amendments. This means we have to transform ourselves into a constituent assembly. There is Res. 1230, and 1285, all addressing constitutional matters. Since proposed amendments and revisions, require constituent assembly, then since at least 185 House members want it, we have this proposed resolution… (reads resolution draft)
Escudero: But what he’s reading has Whereas clauses different from Res. 1230!
Jaraula: Am I to be dictated on? I will do my sponsorship in the manner I want!
Escudero: But what you’re reading is different…
chair: Fair question, Jaraula should explain.
Jaraula: Sorry, you don’t read. Precisely, there are different resolutions and not just 1230, and what I’m reading is not 1230 but rather, what the 185 congressmen signed… (goes on reading…)
Escudero: Wait, he’s not answering!
Jaraula: It’s resolution 1230 and subsequent resolutions require constituent assembly, so this resolution is to make possible the convening of a constituent assembly…
Escudero: But he’s called to sponsor Resolution 1230, but that’s not what he’s reading!
Jaraula: I will do it in the way I want! Let me read, then ask!
(wrangling led by Rep. Maza)
2:05 Suspension. TV shows Rep. Paras huddling with Rep. Miles Roces and other administration loyalists, how far he’s traveled since he once insisted on taking the lead for the opposition!
Ricky Carandang interviews Golez; minority fears additional proposals have been slipped into what Jaraula is proposing. Says 161 congressmen are still in House, so best that could take place for administration is to approve resolution, but convene as constituent assembly next Monday. Rep. Pichay said he won’t be interviewed until the voting on resolution takes place.
2:36 a.m. Edcel Lagman expects the session to drag on for another couple of hours. He repeats his argument re: Gonzalez vs. Comelec. Says the rule they amended needed to be amended because it was a wrong rule to begin with. Doubts if Supreme Court can affect things, because SC cannot interfere in Congress’ right to propose amendments, and besides he thinks there won’t be a majority to approve a TRO, and no TRO, no stopping the House.
Pichay makes a cameo and says he thinks Jaraula should be allowed to proceed and questioned only after the speech. Says the majority is going to stick it out and finish it this morning.
2:49 am Text from someone observing congressmen: Rep. Delmar instructed audio technician to turn off all microphones except Jaraula’s when session resumes. Says session was suspended because the objections of the minority turn out to have basis: majority tried to slip in a date for convening constituent assembly when resolution circulated and supposed to be sponsored did not contain that item. Jaraula apparently won’t admit he shouldn’t have done that -that he jumped the gun.
2:56 Escudero says he talked to the Speaker, and that they will call a night and try again this afternoon. Turns out majority bungled with regards to Rule 65 and substituting another resolution for Res. 1230, the one supposed to be reported to the floor.
I’m signing off.
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