MANILA, Philippines – Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri called on his House counterpart, Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr, to just agree to reconvene the bicameral conference committee on the abolition of the Road Board instread of passing a different bill.
The suggestion came after the House on Saturday, December 22, finally gave in to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte and the Senate to pass the measure after the lower chamber earlier rescinded its approval.
The House still opposes the Senate’s version and wants to pass a “better” bill. That Senate version, however, was originally the House bill that was approved when Pantaleon Alvarez was still Speaker. The Senate just adopted it.
“As a humble suggestion to my co-Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, if they are now resolved to abolish the Road Board like we do in the Senate, we can recall the enrolled copies sent to Malacañang and reconvene the bicam committee to further strengthen the abolition of the corruption riddled agency,” Zubiri said in a statement.
Reconvening a bicam is easier and faster because both chambers need not start from scratch in the lengthy legislative process.
Zubiri said Congress did the same for the coconut levy bill, which was already enrolled for the President’s signature. The Senate and the House asked Malacañang to return the enrolled bill to avoid a presidential veto, following some concerns from the executive on some provisions.
“We did this with the coco levy measure that needed further refinements so we re-convened the bicam for perfecting amendments after it was enrolled and sent to the Palace already,” he said.
If the House agrees, Zubiri said the bicam could be reconvened as early as January 14, 2019, upon the resumption of session.
“If Nonoy [Andaya] is agreeable to this, we can re-convene the bicam upon the motion of both houses on Jan.14 and meet for a day to simply craft the wordings to the law that will abolish the agency and revert the income and the funds to either the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) or national treasury,” Zubiri said.
The Road Board was established under Republic Act 8794 in 2000 under then-president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The board is meant to manage and use the funds from motor vehicle user’s charge (MVUC) or road users’ tax, as the agency does not get allocation from the national budget. But it has become a source of graft and corruption.
The Senate first approved Senate Bill 1620 on February 12, 2018. On May 15, the House, then under the leadership of bill author Alvarez, approved counterpart measure House Bill 7436.
Initially, there were differences between the two versions so a bicameral conference committee was needed to reconcile them. But on September 12, the Senate adopted the House bill, making a bicam unnecessary.
The conflict arose because on the same day, the House, upon the motion of Andaya, rescinded the House’s earlier approval of the measure.
Senators opposed this, saying the Senate already adopted the House version so the bill is already considered enrolled for Duterte’s signature.
The House stood its ground but changed its tune after hearing Duterte himself say he still wants the agency abolished. – Rappler.com
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