CamSur bill dead in wake of word warBy Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Senate on Thursday failed to approve a bill that would carve out the fourth district of Camarines Sur and name it Nueva Camarines, making efforts of Camarines Sur congressmen who launched an intense lobby for its approval in the chamber all for naught.
The measure triggered a word war between Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Wednesday.
In his privileged speech on Wednesday, Trillanes decried the intense lobbying by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte to have the bill passed. The senator also said that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose son is a congressman in Camarines Sur, lobbied with Enrile to pass the measure.
Part of his speech read: “What, the great Senator Enrile could be pressured? I remember him saying otherwise, during the last impeachment proceedings? Is the pressure coming from Congressman Villafuerte, who we see often loitering about at the senator’s lounge, the Senate President’s office, and even personally lobbying senators while we are in session?”
Trillanes, a native of the province, said the plan was “an unwise and risky move for us to take, and this will likely set a bad precedent for future lawmakers.”
The bill should be passed on third and final reading, and signed into law by President Aquino before residents of Camarines Sur are asked in a plebiscite whether they agree to divide the province into two.
A “yes” vote obtained in the plebiscite would serve as the go-signal for politicians who want to run for local posts in the new province to file their certificates of candidacy from Oct. 1 to 5 as mandated by the Commission on Elections.
Congress has adjourned its session yesterday and will resume on Oct. 8, the Monday following the deadline for filing.
Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on local government, was able to deliver his sponsorship speech on the measure only on Monday.
However, the plan to pass the bill on second reading that day did not push through because Trillanes was nowhere to be found despite his having indicated that he would engage Marcos in a debate during the period of interpellation.
Marcos, Trillanes’ Nacionalista Party mate, supported Trillanes’ observation in a huddle with reporters.
“They are always seated there and apparently are holding their own (House) session here,” Marcos said, pointing to the VIP gallery of the Senate session hall.
On the day Enrile and Trillanes engaged in a verbal tussle, Villafuerte and Rep. Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya were seated in the VIP section.
Sen. Joker Arroyo had also put on record his opposition to the measure and twitted Villafuerte et al. for their perfect attendance in the wrong chamber.
Marcos called his bill a “compromise,” noting that House Bill No. 4820 passed by congressmen originally provided that the fourth and fifth districts of Camarines Sur be taken out of the province and renamed Nueva Camarines.
His bill, on the other hand, only took away the fourth district, now represented by Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, from the existing province to create Nueva Camarines.
While all local bills emanate from the House of Representatives, the Senate’s nod is required before these are signed into law in Malacañang.
Senators from the majority bloc wanted to approve the bill on second reading Monday night but Marcos said that Trillanes must be allowed to interpellate.
Marcos said approving the bill on second reading despite Trillanes’ pending manifestation would set a dangerous precedent that could be invoked to rush other measures.
Enrile noted the lack of a quorum at that time and adjourned the session.
In previous interviews, Marcos complained of “pressure” from parties for and against the bill. This forced him to take some time to come up with a committee report in which he still endorsed the division of the province.
Marcos recalled that in one hearing in the session hall, Villafuerte and his son, Camarines Sur Gov. LRay engaged in a heated exchange of words right in front of him and other resource persons.
The governor was worried about the adverse economic repercussions of the measure because it would pull back Camarines Sur’s improved status as the country’s 11th top province.
New districts in Bukidnon
The Senate held a morning session Thursday and approved a local bill creating additional districts in Bukidnon province on third and final reading before adjourning.
Observers said that even if the handful of senators present rushed the approval of the Nueva Camarines bill on second reading, there were not enough lawmakers in attendance to form a quorum. At the same time, they must let three session days pass before they can approve it on third and final reading.
Thursday was the last session day before the filing of certificates of candidacy for local positions.
Trillanes’ opposition to the division of Camarines Sur was first expressed eight weeks ago, despite Enrile’s insistence that Trillanes was using the issue to divert attention from brickbats he is receiving for his alleged intervention in negotiations with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
A review of press statements e-mailed by Trillanes showed that it was on Aug. 1 when the senator first openly discussed his opposition to HB 4820. He mentioned a resolution passed by the Camsur Chamber of Commerce Inc. and Rep. Salvio Fortuno’s stand against the bill. Fortuno represents the province’s 5th district.
Trillanes, a member of the Senate committee on local government, said at that time “there is no compelling reason to pursue” the creation of Nueva Camarines.