ON the last day of the Lower House’s session before it adjourns for four months, Celestino “Tining” Martinez III still failed to take his oath of office and was not installed as fourth district representative.
Lack of quorum was cited and this was because, said Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, Cebuano congressmen influenced other members of the House of Representatives not to have a quorum.
Text messages to this effect were reportedly circulated. “Cong, May I please, please request you not to go to plenary today to avoid quorum. Just stay in your office please. This is a special favor to me and my family will never forget you. Please tell your friends. Thanks and God Bless, Cong. Salimbangon… Note. Cong. Alcover supports this.”
Abaya is also secretary-general of the Liberal Party, where Martinez belongs.
Abaya said the lack of quorum showed that Martinez’s rival, Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu Province, 4th district) did “his homework in convincing other congressmen not to attend.”
Abaya said there were only 91 members who responded to the roll call; 135 warm bodies are needed to have a quorum.
Salimbangon denied Abaya’s accusation, saying it is an insult to the Cebuano congressmen and he has no influence over the other congressmen.
“Unfair pud ang iyang accusation. Last two days, sige na gud ang kumpanya, mao ng wa ang uban,” Salimbangon said.
But for Martinez, his failure to take oath is not a reason to despair.
The oath-taking at the Plenary Hall, he said, is just a ministerial duty that entitles him to join deliberations in Congress.
He is already starting to look for people to serve as his staff the “soonest possible time,” after an entry of judgment of the Supreme Court (SC) en banc dated Feb. 2 declared him the duly elected representative of his district.
It also stated that “the decision is immediately executory.”
This document, Martinez added, has more authority than having an oath-taking in open session and that it allows him to enjoy privileges and other congressional benefits like salaries and other congressional funds.
“The plenary can’t supersede the SC, which is the highest law in land,” Martinez told Sun.Star Cebu.
Salimbangon confirmed the entry of judgment but said that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) was confused about it.
The SC had denied his second motion for reconsideration despite a pending motion for an oral argument.
Salimbangon said the two motions have been denied but the OSG filed a motion for clarification yesterday afternoon with the SC seeking to clarify why the SC was able to issue an entry of judgment even with the OSG’s pending motion.
Martinez also said that once session resumes on May 31, he will take his oath in the plenary.
Aside from the entry of judgment, Martinez also faxed his oath of office dated Feb. 2 and signed by Deputy Speaker Eric Singson.
Martinez said this was not done in open session but was still tantamount to having taken his oath and considering him a regular member of the House.
He also said his name was already included in the rolls of congressmen as of yesterday, together with other two party-list representatives.
But Rep. Pablo John Garcia (Cebu Province, 3rd district) reiterated that the oath-taking has to be done in open session.
Besides, under the rules, it should be administered by the speaker. “Not Eric Singson,” Garcia said.
But Martinez said Singson was the speaker of the day last Feb. 2 and assumed the duties of the speaker.
“If he took his oath on Feb. 2, why was Salimbangon’s name, and not his, called during the roll call today? (Feb 3 session),” he told Sun.Star Cebu in a text messagh “Besides, if it was dated Feb. 2, why was he still there today, trying to take his oath?
And why are they still complaining about the lack of quorum and our alleged hand in it, today, Feb 3? It doesn’t make sense,” Garcia said.
He also said there were lots of controversial bills pending in Congress and most of the congressmen don’t want a quorum. He had cited, among others, the reproductive health bill and right of reply bill. There can be no single explanation for the lack of quorum, he added. (RSA)