Senate allows pre-bicam on RH bill

SENATE President Juan Ponce Enrile approved to hold a pre-bicameral conference committee on Reproductive Health bill after a heated debate ensued when Senator Pia Cayetano wanted to appoint members of the panel which was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

“So ordered, “ Enrile said in approving the proposal of Senator Franklin Drilon to hold a pre-bicameral conference committee as a compromised motion to settle the arguments between Cayetano and Sotto in the creation of the panel.

Earlier, Drilon manifested in the plenary to allow Cayetano to meet a pre-bicam meeting in order to diffuse the rising tension between Cayetano and Sotto, when the Sotto objected on the motion of Cayetano to immediately appoint the members of the bicameral conference committee on the measure.

“We suggested, technically this is the best solution, we allow her to conduct with her House counterpart at 4:30 this afternoon, these could not be a bicam, It is a pre-bicam, technically it is a technical working group, to go through on both version to see on what provisions are the same, and disagreement, therefore it would not be bicam, it would be a pre-bicam,” Drilon said.

Then Enrile approved the manifestation of Drilon.

Earlier, Sotto objected to the motion filed by Cayetano to immediately appoint the members of the bicameral conference committee in order for the panel to have a 4:30 meeting.

“We have not yet read the clean copy of the approved version, and there is no transmittal yet from the House of the Representatives that they have approved the measure, and yet they want to create the bicameral conference committee. Puwede naman natin gawin ito bukas. We want to study the House version, that is why I am objecting for the creation of the bicameral conference committee panel because we are not ready.

But, Cayetano argued that she citing a traditional practice in the Chamber that the Senate immediately appoints and confirms membership in the bicameral conference committee after the body has approved a particular measure.

“So, I would like to add that I said that was in the Rule ( the committee chairman has the right to appoint bicam members) . In fact I recognized the Rule that it is the Senate president But, I am just invoking the custom we are practicing. I am not changing the Rule, but citing only the practice,” Cayetano said.

However, Enrile explained that under the practice cited by the principal sponsor of the RH bill is being done in the Senate only if there was no objection from any member present during the presentation of the motion.

“That is correct (practice), but normally we tolerate the chairman of the committee to select the members of his or her panel, but that is without objection. But if there is an objection, it is the duty of the presiding officer of this House, the Senate president, to exercise the powers under the Rules,” Enrile said.

“I would like to put into the records, the understanding of this chair; the lady has said that she has the right to choose the members of the bicameral conference committee. But under the rule, that prerogative was given to the senate president with the approval of the Senate,” Enrile added.

“So, I want this to maintain the authority of the chair of this House,” Enrile said.

Despite the ruling, Cayetano stood again asking Sotto an assurance that members of her committee selected to be part of the bicameral conference committee.

“Mr. President, I just want to have an assurance that the names of the some members, be taken up and be confirmed, so that I could have my meeting for tomorrow. Forgive me for having my members because it is also my right that I can precede with the bicam in the morning because our session is in the afternoon,” Cayetano said.

“I will read it into the records, so that they can meet the bicameral conference committee tomorrow, so that other members of the Senate can attend,” Sotto said.

Enrile again reminded Cayetano that under the Rules of the Senate, the majority leader, which is Sotto, has the right to calendar any business in the agenda.

We have discussed this enough; it is understood by the sponsor of the measure. The order of this house, it is the prerogative of the majority that is why he is the majority leader. Okey? , so ordered,” Enrile said.

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