It’s time to wrap up this series of notes on last week’s plenary vote in Congress. (There’s still other material left, but I’d like to give my two discounted centavos’ worth on the other issues that have arisen since.)
I guess I was most struck by what I thought was a wasted opportunity, when the opposition could have prolonged the debates at least until the following day.
When session was resumed at 11:22 pm on Monday, September 5, Deputy Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano made a motion. Considering that the report of the Committee on Justice was finished late (it was submitted to the Office of the Secretary General only at 2:42 in the afternoon), Cayetano moved that the report be returned to the committee.
Another pro-impeachment congressman, Rep. Justin Chipeco, rose to amend the motion. Let’s return the report to the committee, he said, and ask the committee members to "include Dinky Soliman" — that is, to question her about her belated recollection of a controversial conversation with the President and political adviser Gabby Claudio. In other words, Chipeco wanted the plenary to force the committee to do what Rep. Ace Barbers had wanted them to do the previous week, before the minority decided to walk out.
Commotion. Cayetano said the rules of the House allowed him five minutes to explain his original motion (see Section 128). But Senior Deputy Majority Leader Art Defensor refused him additional time, saying the five-minute rule applied to the one proposing the amendment, but only if the original proponent rejected the amendment. At that point, Cayetano proceeded to the subject for which (or so I thought then) the opposition had cleverly laid the predicate; he rejected Chipeco’s amendment. Chipeco then spoke at length, recalling Barbers’ attempt to invite Soliman to the committee meeting, and explaining why it was only right for the justice committee to call her in the near future.
Cayetano then asked to be recognized, because he said the rule they had just invoked allowed him to explain his reasons for rejecting Chipeco’s amendment.
By the time he was finished, almost 30 minutes in real (not congressional) time had elapsed. When the plenary finally voted on Cayetano’s original motion, to return the report to the committee (naturally, the Nays had it), it was six minutes past midnight.
Clever, I thought. So this is how the minority will tie up the proceedings, in the hope of wearing down the patience of the administration congressmen: They will make motion after motion, with amendments-for-rejection to be raised by other members of the opposition. A few more of these exchanges, and the House leadership may be moved to postpone the final vote on the committee report, if only for a day.
No such luck. The minority never tried that neat trick again. Perhaps they had only lucked into it.
Perhaps they didn’t sense the momentary confusion they had caused in the majority’s ranks. Perhaps they didn’t notice that, throughout the entire time of the Cayetano-Chipeco faux pas de deux (to, ah, coin another phrase), the majority’s leaders were in huddle after huddle, seemingly discussing tactics for something they had not accounted for.
Like the French say: Sayang.