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Surreptitious insertions

In the many accomplishment or performance reports submitted, lawmakers usually cite the number of bills they filed and authored in Congress, especially taking credit for those subsequently approved into law. But to be known as an “effective fiscalizer” at the lawmaking body, this is a totally different story, as in the case of maverick legislators.

A case in point is Buhay party-list representative Lito Atienza who cited his single-handed accomplishment of having successfully blocked an attempt to legislate a controversial “same sex” marriage that our largely Catholic nation frowns upon. At the closing days of the 17th Congress whose life ends this June 30, Atienza revealed a surreptitious insertion of a provision into a proposed Anti-Discrimination bill that would have effectively allowed “same sex” marriage in the Philippines.

A maverick party-list congressman, Atienza is a known staunch defender of the Catholic Church being the party-list representative of Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (Let Life Prosper), more popularly known as Buhay party-list. His party-list group is founded by El Shaddai Movement leader Mike Velarde who leads their pro-life advocacy causes from attempts to legalize abortion to fighting the moves to restore the Death Penalty Law in the Philippines and lately, moves to legalize “same sex” marriage here in our country.

Currently, there are already at least 27 countries, mainly in Europe, that allows “same sex” marriages.

Our neighbor Taiwan was the 27th country to recently legalize “same sex” marriage, the first ever Asian country to do so.

Here in the Philippines, Atienza disclosed allowing “same sex” marriage was nearly passed into law during the 17th Congress had he not discovered it. Through a seeming innocuous wording under the proposed Anti-Discrimination bill, allowing it was inserted into one of its provisions pertaining to government-issued licenses.

According to Atienza, it went through the usual tactics of legislators who try to go around to those openly and vehemently opposed to a proposed legislation. “For example, it does not explicitly state allowing to marry a man with a man, or a woman to woman. What was stated in that (bill) was nobody is allowed to reject a license to anyone applying,” Atienza pointed out.

So he stood up at the floor deliberations of this bill during the interpellation period and pinned down the author into openly admitting the proposed letter and intent of the law.

Quoting how the exchange of question-and-answer at the House deliberations went on this:

Atienza: “When you say a ‘license,’ does this include marriage license? I asked. So the author (of the bill) was put on the spot and responded “Yes, it is a license.”

Atienza: “So this is the same as ‘same sex’ marriage?”

Author: “I would not call it that because that’s just one part.”

Atienza: “No, no, no. That’s the main provision, you just hid it.”

Without mentioning who the author was, suffice it to say, Atienza felt vindicated when the questioned provision under the proposed bill was removed when it was finally approved at the Lower House.

Specifically, Atienza referred to the so-called SOGIE bill or the acronym for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression/Equality Bill, also known as the Anti-Discrimination bill. As cited in this bill, it intends to prevent various economic and public accommodation-related acts of discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

The current versions of the bill are championed by Dinagat Island Congresswoman Kaka Bag-ao, Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, and Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin. Senator Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan authored the SOGIE bill in the Senate. The House version was passed on final reading in September 2017 while its Senate version did not get through the legislative mills in the Upper Chamber.

“That’s why you need Atienza because I take my time to read them (bills), so I get to see them. Sometimes, these (provisions) are secretly hidden. Once these bills get passed and approved, it is only the time they admit we approved them,” the Buhay party-list representative crowed.

“Effective fiscalizer, that’s how I would describe my contribution. There were so many laws I blocked and I was able to do so,” Atienza told our Kapihan sa Manila Bay weekly breakfast news forum last Wednesday.

Aside from being the voice in the wilderness, Atienza has assumed for himself the role of attendance checker among his perennially absentee colleagues at the House of Representatives. Atienza credited outgoing Speaker, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for democratic leadership in allowing him leeway whenever he questions lack of quorum when deliberating on vital legislation pieces.

Also during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast news forum, Atienza openly declared his support to Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as the “new face without past baggage” who should be the next Speaker of the House for the incoming 18th Congress. Atienza cited Velasco, son of retired Supreme Court associate justice Presbitero Velasco, as someone capable and has very good background and best qualified to become the new Speaker.

“We need a Speaker like Velasco who could bring unity and leadership at the House at this juncture of the administration of President Duterte who needs the legislative support from the 18th Congress in the remaining three years of his term,” Atienza pointed out.

Atienza gave his unequivocal support to the Speakership bid of Velasco no matter whoever his fellow members of the party-list coalition at the House may choose other than Velasco. A total of 51 party-list organizations, including Atienza’s Buhay were proclaimed winners in the last May 13 elections.

When the 18th Congress opens on July 22, Atienza vows to continue his fiscalizer role even if single-handedly against any new legislations – whether openly or through surreptitious insertions – that would violate the Catholic Church stand on sanctity of life and other Christian family values.

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com


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