Villar, Drilon get into heated exchange over procedural mix-up
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Cynthia Villar and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday got into a heated exchange when a procedural mix-up delayed the plenary sponsorship of two measures seeking to increase the bed capacity of two government hospitals.
During the Senate’s “hybrid” plenary session, two committee reports which separately contained Senate Bill No. 1103 and Senate Bill No. 143 seeking to increase the bed capacity of the Cagayan Valley Medical Center and the Las Piñas General Hospital and Satellite Trauma Center, respectively, had to be withdrawn after some senators pointed out that the reports were not worded correctly.
But a visibly irked Villar argued that it was only a “typographical error of presentation.”
The two Senate bills had counterpart measures already approved in the lower chamber.
“But there is a House bill. It’s a mistake…There is a House bill passed in the House so it’s a typographical error of presentation, why should it be taken against our House bill?” she said.
Before this, several senators cited the origination clause provided under the Constitution, which states that local bills must emanate from the House of Representatives before it can be tackled on the Senate floor.
This means that a Senate committee must report out a House bill to plenary if the said measure is of local application.
But in the case of the two committee reports prepared by the chamber’s health committee, Senate Vicente Sotto III said the procedure seemed to have been “reversed.”
“I noticed that in the lower portion of the agenda, it says here, like for example ‘Senate Bill No. 1103 introduced by Senator (Imee) Marcos taking into consideration House Bill 6144′,” Sotto said.
“The practice is reversed. Shouldn’t it be that the House bill and taking into consideration the Senate bill?” he added and asked Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri for his position on the matter.
In response, Zubiri said: “I believe the title of the committee reports were probably placed wrong only, maybe we can correct it during the period of amendments.”
Villar, Drilon exchange
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed with Sotto, citing the origination provision under the Constitution.
“This is a local bill and this is what comes to us for approval. The way I see your agenda we are putting in the calendar and debating on Senate Bill No. 1103 taking into account House Bill No. 6144 and Senate Bill No. 143 taking into consideration House Bill No. 6036, it is our respectful submission that this is not correct,” Drilon said.
“Otherwise, it can be questioned, these are local bills and it should emanate from the House and therefore what we should consider are the House Bills taking into account the senate bills that were filed,” explained.
But Villar, the proponent of Senate Bill No. 143, insisted on having her measure sponsored, along with the other hospital bed capacity bills, to prevent any delays.
She then asked the chair of the Senate health panel to sponsor the said bills since the only issue was that the title of the reports containing the measures was not correctly presented.
“I just want to ask the sponsor to sponsor our bill…there is a corresponding House bill here and can it be included today because it’s just a change of title and it seems we’re getting into trouble because there’s a Senate counterpart when it should be the House bill that should be approved by the Senate,” she reasoned.
“So may we request the sponsor to sponsor us today so we will not be delayed anymore?” she added.
Drilon, however, reiterated that it was the two Senate bills that were “routed” for the approval of the chamber and not the House bills, as should have been done.
Drilon explained that local bills must emanate from the lower chamber before the Senate can tackle it and when Villar tried to interject, the Senate minority leader called Sotto’s attention and said: “I have the floor, Mr. President.”
“We were just trying to adhere to the proper procedure,” Drilon said.
In a bid to “calm everyone,” Zubiri suggested that the committee report be withdrawn and that the corrected ones can be sponsored on Monday.
“Anyway, we will not be able to pass these measures today because we have a standing rule that measures sponsored needs a day or at least one day before we can actually approve the measure. So all of that will go through just the second reading — unless we extend our session,” Zubiri said, speaking partly in Filipino.
Villar pressed her position and said that the bill she filed was similar to its counterpart measure in the House.
Still, Sotto stressed the need to follow the procedure.
“We understand your point, but that is not the procedure. It’s as simple as that. You have to report out the House bill and take into consideration the Senate bill if it’s a bill that emanates from the House. That’s the procedure. Let’s not just say: Well, that’s the Senate bill and the title is the same. Yes, but that’s not the proper procedure,” he said.
“The solution that I am offering now is simply a piece of paper. All you have to do is withdraw the committee reports, come up with another committee report reporting out the House bill taking into consideration the two Senate bills and then we can take it up right away. Why can’t we do that if that’s the proper procedure? Why do we want to go against the rules?” he added.
Villar then clarified that she did not intend to “go against the rules.”
“We’re just saying that when I sponsored the bill [during the committee hearing], I mentioned that there is a House bill and the House bill and the Senate bill are the same. Because the House bill was authored by my daughter, I thought it will be better if there is a Senate version. But if I would have known that it’s better that there is only a House version, then I would not have authored a bill at all,” she said.
Zubiri, nevertheless, assured them that the two Senate bills would be approved.
“We are not against the passage of the measure, we will pass the measure. It’s just a matter of following procedure. The easiest route is to just withdraw the two measures and it has already been duly withdrawn,” he added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.