VICE Gov. Hilario Davide III laments that under the new house rules of the Cebu Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), he is prohibited from participating in the discussions, deliberations and from sponsoring legislative measures. All he can do is to preside over the regular and special sessions, divide the house, count the vote results and he can vote only if there is a tie. Then bang the gavel. That’s it. Hayahay pa sa pulis.

These new house rules were adopted in the 15th SP by the majority of the members who are allied with Gov. Gwen Garcia. Since the 7th up to the 14th SP, the vice governor, who is the presiding officer, was allowed to take part in the discussions and deliberations and even sponsor resolutions and ordinances. That’s why Davide’s predecessor, vice governor Agnes Magpale, had the second highest number of legislative measures during her time in the 14th SP.

Why the sudden change in house rules, which prohibit the vice governor who is the presiding officer from taking part in the discussions?

Was there an intervention from the executive department to intentionally gag the vice governor? Why did the SP majority suddenly change the house rules when Davide assumed his position?

Are they afraid of Davide? I think this is unfair because whether we like it or not, Davide is part of the august body. It is violative of the rules if you deprive the presiding officer to participate because he, too, is a member of the council. He should be allowed to talk so that he can freely express his opinions and stand on whatever issues and matters presented before the board. Let him play his role as an opposition to the present administration. We need an opposition in any legislative body so there will be check and balance. Why are they afraid when they are the majority? In case there is a division in the house, they always win.

Let the Cebu Provincial Board adopt the Robert’s rules of order. The role of the presiding officer under Robert’s Parliamentary procedure:

a) To remain impartial during debate—the presiding officer must relinquish the chair in order to debate the merits of a motion and may not chair the meeting again until after a vote has been taken or the motion has been disposed of;

b) To vote only to break a tie (or 2/3 for matters requiring 2/3 vote) exception; the presiding officer may vote on any vote by ballot;

c) To introduce business proper order per the agenda;

d) To recognize speakers;

e) To determine if a motion is in order;

f) To keep discussion germane to the pending motion;

g) To maintain order;

h) To put a motion to a vote and announce the results.

The Robert’s rules of order was introduced by Henry Martin Robert (May 2, 1837), who was an American soldier, engineer and author. In 1876, Robert published his first edition of his manual of parliamentary procedure, Robert’s rules and order, which remains today the most common parliamentary authority in the United States. He was a Brigadier General in the US Army whose original motivation for the title came in 1863 after being asked to preside over a church meeting in San Francisco.

Are Robert’s rules and order legally binding? It is important to realize that Robert’s rules are neither based on statutes nor are they based on any laws or court decisions. In fact, Robert’s rules are not legally required to be used by any entity and are not legally binding unless formally adopted by an entity.

Even the Philippine Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate adopts the Robert’s parliamentary procedures. The House Speaker and Senate President, who are the presiding officers in their respective chambers, can relinquish their positions, step down and participate in the discussions and even sponsor measures. Why can’t the Cebu Provincial Board also adopt these house rules? Just asking.