By Mario Casayuran
The Senate leadership on Saturday said it would reject any call by the House of Representatives that their bicameral committees meet to “iron out differing versions” of their bills seeking to abolish the graft-ridden Road Board.
This was the common stand of Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon in separate radio interviews Saturday.
They said their colleagues in the 24-member Senate would most likely go along with their position that the Senate has already adopted the House version of the bill seeking the abolition of the Road Board, hence there is no need for a bicameral conference committee meeting.
If there is anyone who goes along with the Lower House view, the matter would be put to a vote but the majority would most likely go along with the Senate leadership’s position, Sotto said.
All the senators are scheduled to meet in caucus tomorrow morning to discuss their legislative agenda as the scheduled May 2019 mid-term election would shorten their plenary sessions.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives resume regular session after a month-long Christmas break.
Sotto said the Lower House would be going against the position of President Duterte if they insist on both Houses meeting in bicameral committee.
Duterte had said he is for the abolition of the Road Board.
Sotto recalled that no senator interpellated or raised question on the motion to adopt the House version.
He also said it is wrong to say that Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri was asked by House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. that the Senate should discuss a proposed bicameral conference committee meeting.
Zubiri did not say “yes,” Sotto said.
The Board’s P42-billion motor vehicle tax collection is temporarily frozen while both Houses are locked in a battle.
Drilon said it would be dangerous to allow the holding of a bicameral conference meeting because failure to agree would mean the non-abolition of the Road Board and its legislative life not terminated when Congress adjourns sine die in early June.
Congress is scheduled to go on a break to give way to an election campaign for the May mid-term elections starting February 11. It will briefly resume plenary session in late May and adjourn sine die in June.
The Lower House during the tenure of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, according to senators, had passed a bill seeking to abolish the Road Board.
The Senate decided to adopt the House version of the bill.