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Minority rejects calls to sanction lawmakers who joined walkout

The House independent minority bloc rejected calls to discipline the Makabayan lawmakers who staged a walkout during the fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Aquino last July 28.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who heads the group, said he does not see the need to probe the left-leaning party-list lawmakers who were just exercising their right to expression.

“They should be cautious to sanction them because that is freedom of expression also and they never disrupted,” he said.

A lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), Romualdez warned that sanctioning the Makabayan bloc members would only create unnecessary conflict in the House.

“If I were the majority, I will leave it alone. By sanctioning them, baka iyon ay maging gulo pa (it may cause trouble),” he said.

Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. earlier said he would discourage the filing of an ethics complaint against Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, Gabriela Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. Antonio Tinio and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon.

But AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, a lawyer, cited the need to look into the incident “not to penalize the Makabayan bloc for their publicity antics but to come up with rules that will deal with such kind of actions in the future.”

“I personally believe that we (should) include in our rules that attendance in SONA is an obligation among us members and any act that might disrupt, disturb or disrespect the proceedings including a walkout by members of Congress should be penalized,” he said.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo “Rodito” Albano III,  Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello and 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III rushed in the defense of their progressive solons, saying that the action of the Makabayan group was within the legal, moral and ethical bounds. (Charissa M. Luci)