Speaker Feliciano Belmonte did not vote against the SSS pension increase bill. Actually, not a single congressman voted against it. It was approved unanimously without objections last year.
And so when President BS Aquino shamelessly vetoed the bill this year, its principal authors and SSS retirees were not expecting big problems towards overriding the veto.
The vetoed measure was unanimously adopted by the House, and with near-unanimous vote of senators (except for one negative vote – coming from the chamber’s oldest member!)
Come to think of it, the House and the Senate would just have to vote again – in the much same way they voted in 2015: Overwhelmingly, nearly unanimous, and surely beyond the two-thirds required to override the veto.
Unfortunately for SSS retirees, traditional politics intervened.
The House leadership was more concerned about possibly hurting President BS Aquino’s feelings, than about the bill it approved unanimously and the two-million SSS retirees who stand to benefit from it.
The House leadership’s fear of and love for President BS Aquino knows no bounds. They stopped and delayed the entry of SSS retirees into the House premises, and right in front of them, quickly adjourned the session to deny any lawmaker an opportunity to make a motion to override the presidential veto.
Had Neri Colmenares been able to present a motion, it would have compelled the division of the house. A roll-call vote would have shown to the nation the lawmakers who changed their minds and those who stayed true to the cause of uplifting the standard of living of SSS retirees.
The fight is not yet over. When the session resumes, Colmenares could still be able to make a motion to override the veto. He will be backed by at least 62 other lawmakers and perhaps more, if public pressure would bear on the others.
Here is the list of congressmen and women who want a veto override, as of February 5, 2016, 2:00pm:
1. Rep. Ronaldo B. Zamora (San Juan, Lone District)
2. Rep. Thelma Z. Almario (Davao Oriental, 2nd District)
3. Rep. Roman T. Romulo (Pasig, Lone District)
4. Rep. Silvestre H. Bello III (1BAP)
5. Rep. Jose L. Atienza Jr. (Buhay)
6. Rep. Ana Cristina Siquian Go (Isabela, 2nd District)
7. Rep. Samuel D. Pagdilao (ACT-CIS)
8. Rep. Martin Romualdez (Leyte,1st District)
9. Rep. Evelina G. Escudero (Sorsogon, 1st District)
10. Rep. Juan Johnny R. Revilla (OFW)
11. Rep. Irwin C. Tieng (Buhay)
12. Rep. Nicanor M. Briones (Agap)
13. Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan (Gabriela)
14. Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate (Bayan Muna)
15. Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (ACT Teachers)
16. Rep. Terry L. Ridon (Kabataan)
17. Rep. Fernando L. Hicap (Anakpawis)
18. Rep. Emmi de Jesus (Gabriela)
19. Rep. Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna)
20. Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz (ABAKADA)
21. Rep. Enrique T. Garcia Jr. (Bataan, 2nd District)
22. Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian (Valenzuela City, 1st District)
23. Rep. Angelina L. Tan (Quezon, 4th District)
24. Rep. Napoleon S. Dy (Isabela, 3rd District)
25. Rep. Mark M. Enverga (Quezon, 1st District)
26. Rep. Florencio T. Flores Jr. (Bukidnon, 2nd District)
27. Rep. Isidro S. Rodriguez (Rizal, 2nd District)
28. Rep. Rose Marie J. Arenas (Pangasinan, 3rd District)
29. Rep. Mercedes C. Cagas (Davao del Sur, 1st District)
30. Rep. Aleta C. Suarez (Quezon, 3rd District)
31. Rep. Leah S. Paquiz (ANG NARS)
32. Rep. Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo (Aurora, Lone District)
33. Rep. Victor J. Yu (Zamboanga Del Sur, 1st District)
34. Rep. Lilia Macrohon-Nuno (Zamboanga City, 2nd District)
35. Rep. Mar-Len Abigail S. Binay (Makati City, 2nd District)
36. Rep. Susan A. Yap (Tarlac, 2nd District)
37. Rep. Gus S. Tambunting (Paranaque City, 2nd District)
38. Rep. Giorgidi B. Aggabao (Isabela, 4th District)
39. Rep. Pryde Henry A. Teves (Negros Oriental 3rd District)
40. Rep. Harlin C. Abayon (Northern Samar, 1st District)
41. Rep. Jeffrey D. Khonghun (Zambales, 1st District)
42. Rep. Joseph Stephen S. Paduano (ABANG LINGKOD)
43. Rep. Amado S. Bagatsing (Manila, 5th District)
44. Rep. Diosdado Macapagal Arroyo (Camarines Sur, 2nd District)
45. Rep. Rodolfo G. Biazon (Muntinlupa, Lone District)
46. Rep. Arnel U. Ty (LPGMA)
47. Rep. Agapito H. Guanlao (Butil)
48. Rep. Edgardo R. Masongsong (1-CARE)
49. Rep. Rogelio Neil Pepito Roque (Bukidnon, 4th District)
50. Rep. Celso L. Lobregat (Zamboanga City, 1st District)
51. Rep. Noel L. Villanueva (Tarlac, 3rd District)
52. Rep. Aurora E. Cerilles (Zamboanga Del Sur, 2nd District)
53. Rep. Jose T. Panganiban Jr. (ANAC-IP)
54. Rep. Pedro B. Acharon Jr. (South Cotabato, 1st District)
55. Rep. Ferdinand L. Hernandez (South Cotabato, 2nd District)
56. Rep. Manuel M. Iway (Negros Oriental, 1st District)
57. Rep. George P. Arnaiz (Negros Oriental, 2nd District)
58. Rep. Lino S. Cayetano (Taguig City, 2nd District)
59. Rep. Sol Aragones (Laguna, 3rd District)
60. Rep. Enrico “Recom” Echiverri (Caloocan City, 1st District)
61. Rep. Kimi S. Cojuangco (Pangasinan, 5th District)
62. Rep. Arthur C. Yap (Bohol, 3rd District)
63. Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco (Lone District, Navotas)
About 130 more congressmen are needed to have a valid override in the House, and at least 16 senators in the Senate.
This is not impossible to achieve considering the original votes on the bills, the election season, the growing unpopularity of President BS Aquino and the rising anger of SSS members, retirees and their families.
Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon may opt not to vote for the override, out of their love and support for President BS Aquino. Perhaps they may even have the numbers to defeat an override.
But they should not deprive the people of the opportunity of knowing and seeing how their lawmakers would vote on the override. They should not stop the public from directly lobbying, pressing, campaigning, and convincing their representatives, and senators.
Is that too much to ask?
First appeared in the Manila Bulletin, 6 Feb. 2016. List of lawmakers included in this version and likewise updated the total number of representatives who have signed a resolution for veto override.