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Belmonte recalls order on sessions

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has recalled his order to hold five days of sessions every week to tackle the controversial draft Bangsamoro Basic Law after the House repeatedly failed to muster a quorum.

The “marathon” sessions were called to prioritize the plenary debates and the passage of the BBL, the P3.002-trillion national budget and eight bills listed as priority bills of both Houses during the last five weeks before Congress goes on a month-long recess starting Oct. 10.

The sessions are back to original three-days-a-week schedule, from Mondays to Wednesdays, starting Monday.

“The five-day sessions didn’t work. We still failed to muster a quorum,” Belmonte admitted.

But Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, principal sponsor of the BBL, remains confident the draft could be passed on second reading on Sept. 15, despite the fact that around 30 lawmakers have asked to be given the chance to question its provisions on the floor.

Last Sept. 3, upon instruction by the Speaker, Romblon Rep. Eleandro Menandro Madrona, chairman of the House committee on accounts, directed the 4,000 House employees to forego their four-day work-week and report for work Mondays to Fridays for eight hours, instead of from Mondays to Thursdays for 10 hours.

Last Friday, the entire House stopped working at 2 p.m. after the session was adjourned.

Only a handful lawmakers are still attending the sessions because most of them were already busy preparing for their campaigns, Belmonte said.

But Belmonte still refused to discipline on the House members to compel them to attend the sessions.

“They’re no longer kids. They should know their priorities and that is their legislative work,” Belmonte said. “As their leader, I can only appeal to them to attend.”

The Speaker said the leaders of both chambers of Congress will continue to meet as needed to ensure the passage of common legislative priorities.

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