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Belmonte on Arroyo’s ‘presence’ in 22 sessions: Your guess is as good as mine


Speaker Feliciano Belmonte was also clueless how Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo managed to be present 22 times during the first regular session of the 16th Congress when she had been under hospital arrest on a charge of plunder since 2012.
 
“Your guess is as good as mine. Will ask Sec Gen to explain,” Belmonte told GMA News Online in a text message.
 
The report of Arroyo's supposed presence in House sessions despite her detention came up after the House of Representatives' released the attendance record of House members on Wednesday.  
 
While it showed Arroyo as the member having the most absences, it also showed that she answered the rollcall 22 times.
 
Clerical error
 
House Secretary General Marilyn Yap said there was an error in the congressmen’s attendance records it uploaded on the House’s website Wednesday, which showed Arroyo was present for 22 out of the 69 session days of the first regular session from July 22, 2013 to June 11, 2014.
 
“The 22 days were days when no roll call was conducted,” she said in a text message. 
 
The House Journal Service has been instructed to correct the error, Yap added.
 
As of posting time, the pdf file of the lawmakers’ attendance records is no longer accessible at the House’s website.
 
Arroyo has been detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City pending a plunder case at the Sandiganbayan over her alleged misuse of P366 million intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
 
Next to Arroyo, the lawmaker with the poorest attendance record is Lanao Del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, who recorded 42 absences.
 
Like Arroyo, Dimaporo is also under hospital arrest at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City since August 2013 in connection with his alleged involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. He has been charged with graft and malversation before the Office of the Ombudsman.
 
Excluding Arroyo and Dimaporo, the top three absentee House members for the first regular session were Negros Occidental Rep. Julio Ledesma IV, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao. They were absent for 37, 33 and 31 days, respectively.
 
The attendance of House members are classified by the House secretariat as either “actually present” or “deemed present.” Only legislators who are actually present in the plenary are counted in determining a quorum.
 
Only 68 lawmakers or 28 percent of House members registered a perfect attendance for the first year of the 16th Congress. Of this number, 44 were “actually present” and did not miss a session while the rest were “deemed present” for some days. —NB, GMA News