Sotto says no need for bicameral conference on abolition of Road Board

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Vicente C. Sotto III

By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter

SENATE President Vicente C. Sotto III on Thursday stuck to his position that there is no need for a bicameral conference committee on the bill abolishing the Road Board, despite proposals on such moves in order to resolve the issue.

“As far as the Senate is concerned, technically, we have adopted the House version so there is no need for a bicam,” Mr. Sotto said at the Kapihan sa Senado media forum on Thursday.

“Our Majority Leader (Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri) is of course coordinating and cooperating with the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, and their request is for us to go into a Bicam. So Senator Zubiri told me, but then again, there is the other half of the Senate who believes there is no need for a Bicam because we have adopted the House version,” Mr. Sotto also said.

Last December, Mr. Zubiri suggested reconvening the bicameral conference committee “to further strengthen the abolition of the corruption-riddled agency,” following President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s statements supporting the Senate position on the Road Board’s abolition.

House Majority Leader Rolando G. Andaya, Jr. last Sunday said they are ready to designate members of the bicameral conference committee.

Mr. Sotto said at Thursday’s media forum that the proposal for both chambers to convene in a bicameral conference committee will have to be decided by members of the Senate at their caucus on Jan. 14, when Congress also resumes session.

But he also said, “It’s abolished as far as we are concerned. Maybe it’s just ministerial if you look at it. Anyway, that is the situation right now so that is why it will be second in our agenda (in the caucus). Do we agree? If we agree, we have to come up with a mechanism in the Senate to be able to resume consideration and recall the adoption of the House version.”

“Maybe it might be a monkey wrench,” he added.

The Senate leader also said, “The problem is if it is not contained in the Senate version, and it is not contained in the original House version, we cannot legally take it up in the Bicam. That is the SOP (standard operating procedure), we cannot introduce anything new into the Bicam.”

The two chambers of Congress have been at odds with the bill abolishing the Road Board after the Senate adopted the House version of the bill just as the House also rescinded it.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has said he wanted the government agency abolished because of corruption issues. Last week, he also said he preferred the road user’s tax to be allocated for flood-control projects in Bicol after the region was devastated by typhoon Usman.