Bicam talks on RH bill stalled
MANILA, Philippines – Calling it “Pnoy express,” Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III blocked the holding of the first bicameral conference committee on the controversial Reproductive Health bill scheduled this Tuesday afternoon.
“Pnoy” refers to President Benigno Aquino III.
“Ito pag pinilit nilang mag-bicam na wala pa yung mga kopya, hindi natin nababasa yung House version e, pwedeng tawaging Pnoy express yun,” Sotto told reporters before the session, reacting to reports that a bicameral conference committee meeting would be held in the Senate at 4:30 p.m.
Senator Pia Cayetano, head of the committee on health, confirmed the meeting, saying they were hoping to have the bill ratified on Wednesday, the last day of session before Congress goes on Christmas break.
“That would be ideal,” Cayetano said.
So when the session finally opened at 3:30 p.m., Cayetano immediately stood up and appointed seven names for the panel, including her and Sotto.
The other five members are Senators Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos Jr., Teofisto Guingona, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, and Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.
But Sotto, who voted against the bill, immediately objected to the motion.
“I’m sorry I have to object,” he said.
“We just passed this on third reading yesterday [Monday]. We don’t even have a clean copy yet. The distinguished sponsor and some members of the House of Representatives want to call a bicameral conference committee at 4:40 this afternoon when we don’t even have a clean copy yet,” Sotto said.
“Bakit kailangang apurahin nating masyado ito? Sobra naming pagmamadali ito. Huwag naming ganun,” he added.
Besides, Sotto pointed out that under the rules, it should be the Senate President, who should appoint members of the panel.
Cayetano said she recognized the rules but argued that it has been the practice in the chamber that the chairman of the committee was given the privilege to appoint the panel members.
She questioned why all of a sudden the rules were being used against her.
“I am offended that because it’s a measure that the Majority Floor Leader does not like. Again, steps are being taken to delay this process. This is my prerogative to want to finish it before Christmas,” she said.
But Enrile insisted his authority to appoint members of the panel.
At one point, Senator Franklin Drilon stood up and suggested that the Senate and the House should first hold a pre-bicameral meeting this Tuesday and the formal bicameral conference on Wednesday.
But Drilon later acceded to a suggestion that Cayetano first submit the names of the panel members to Enrile, who will make the final decision.
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