House leaders call out Senate ‘foot-dragging’ on urgent bills

Inquirer files

MANILA, Philippines — With their pet bills now either pending or languishing at the Senate, House leaders on Wednesday took issue with the growing disconnect between the two chambers in terms of priority legislation.

During a regular press briefing, Deputy Speaker David Suarez, Lanao del Norte Rep. Mohamad Dimaporo, 1-Rider Rep. Rodge Gutierrez; and Davao Oriental Rep. Cheeno Almario questioned why the Senate appeared to be dragging its feet on bills that had either been certified as priority or publicly backed by President Marcos.

This included, for example, the Senate version of Resolution of Both Houses No. 7 seeking economic Charter change, and recently an amending bill for the 2019 Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) seeking to restore certain functions to the National Food Authority (NFA).

READ: House members hope Senate will approve bill meant to cut rice price

The upper chamber has been hesitant to act on both measures—the first, because most senators argued Charter change was not a priority; and the second because they were concerned about restoring the NFA’s powers to sell rice again.

Political aspect

“I don’t know if it’s a leadership issue, but it seems to be a prioritization issue whether this is on their counterpart rules committee or the prioritization of their [committee] chairs,” Gutierrez said. “Now if it reflects on the leadership, I’m not ready to comment.”

READ: House prods Senate: Your turn to make Cha-cha move

“There is also that political aspect where the Senate has to prepare their timeline, but at the same time also, I wouldn’t want the nation to feel as if the Senate is dragging its feet if it’s a matter of national urgency,” said Dimaporo.

Currently, the Senate is investigating the so-called “PDEA ​​leaks”—a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency report linking the President to illegal drugs. The inquiry was earlier condemned by the House as a “witch hunt,” “farce,” and “deliberate sabotage” of the administration.

Suarez, who is a representative from Quezon province, challenged senators to explain what happened to other bills certified as urgent, such as the amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act, which the House approved on third and final reading but has yet to move in the Senate.

He and the other legislators also pleaded with the Senate to at least consider acting on amendments to the RTL, which they said were badly needed to help curb rising rice prices.

“I think the passage of the RTL especially on the part of the Senate, is an important step for them to prove that they are also being part of the solution … especially since we have three more session days to go before we go on break for sine die,” said Tingog Rep. Jude Acidre.

During a session on Tuesday, the House legislators approved on second reading House Bill No. 10381, which seeks to, among others, restore the price stabilization and supply regulation functions of the NFA.

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