‘WHERE WERE YOU?’ | Lawmakers try to explain absence during CHR budget vote

September 14, 2017 - 9:24 AM
A screenshot of Deputy Speaker and Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo's Facebook Live video on Tuesday morning, where he stressed the importance of tackling the budget despite the bad weather.

Aside from the members of the House of Representatives who voted for or against the P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights on Tuesday, Netizens also took to task lawmakers who were absent during the vote.

Batangas 6th district Representative Vilma Santos said she was suffering an ulcer attack in a message relayed by her son, celebrity Luis Manzano, through his Twitter account:

“I am against cutting the budget of the CHR. The Commission has a duty to perform its constitutional mandate. With so many crimes/EJK (extrajudicial killings), it needs more resources for these investigations. Ito ang isang ahensya na tumutulong sa karapatang pantao (This is an agency that works for human rights)!”

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said he was “disappointed” in himself for not being able to vote, as he was also sick. He later revealed that he underwent a check-up, including ultrasound, on Wednesday because his ailments were already affecting his work.

Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon said he was not able to vote because he “had to leave for an engagement outside Congress.”

He was present from the morning session to about 4:00 p.m., he wrote on his Facebook page.

“Normally during plenary budget debates, there is no voting after each agency presentation,” Biazon explained. “There are only questions and the sponsors give explanations. But in the case of the CHR, a member of Congress moved to reduce the budget to which other members objected, thus compelling the House to divide and vote on the matter.”

He said he would have voted against the P1,000 budget if he had been present.

“I have always believed in keeping state forces in check to ensure that abuse of power and authority does not go unchallenged. The Constitution provided such a mechanism through the Commission on Human Rights,” Biazon said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Marikina 2nd District Representative Miro Quimbo had a contentious exchange with his social media followers.

Twitter user Ellen Arsenio commented that he might have his priorities skewed when he tweeted about a resident’s problem with getting her air conditioner fixed.

“Hi sir, tutal may problem ka sa aircon, pa-confirm naman kung ano boto mo sa CHR budget. I think mas malaking problema ‘yun, ‘di ba (Hi sir, since you seem to have a problem with an aircon, can you confirm how you voted on the CHR budget? I think that’s a bigger problem, right)?” Arsenio asked.

To which he replied, “An 86-year-old ailing mother suffering for 5 days because of a busted aircon may not be important to you, but it is for me, sir.”

He left his last Tweet unfinished.

Earlier in the day, Quimbo posted a Facebook Live video of himself right from the podium of the plenary hall, as he presided over the morning session of the Lower House as it tackled the 2018 General Appropriations Bill.

With 168 members present, he said: “Congratulations colleagues! In spite of the inclement weather, we are here all today. The budget cannot wait.”

Based on his Twitter posts, he wasn’t able to stay the entire day, returning to Marikina City to check on the “flooding situation” because of Tropical Depression Maring, which prompted the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration to issue a red rainfall warning advisory for Metro Manila in the afternoon, meaning serious flooding was expected in flood-prone areas.

He added that he would have voted against the proposed P1,000 budget, saying such a small amount was “tantamount to an abolition of a constitutional office, which only the people can do in a plebiscite.”

Nevertheless, Quimbo had this to say on Facebook: “I’ve made known my deep sentiments that it is a step backward to defund CHR. I will make it known come third reading.”