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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Zubiri assures Senate passage of LEDAC priority bills in Q1

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Senate President Miguel Zubiri sees his fellow senators passing within the first quarter of the year the rest of the priority measures from the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) list that have been passed in the House and still pending in the Senate.

However, the Senate leader said they will not railroad the measures, “even as several priority bills are also pending with us,” but assured “hopefully we can pass these on the first quarter of this year.”

“Iyong mga priority measures, ’yong sa LEDAC natin na priority measures, alam mo naman…iba ‘yong dynamics dito sa Senado,” the Senate leader explained, adding, “Hindi po kami pwedeng mag-‘Choo, Choo, Train’ na sabihing “Ipasa ito, without comment, without discussion.”

The Senate President added: “With due respect to the House—kasi galing din po ako sa House of Representatives…tyranny of numbers.”

“Speaking from experience,” as a former House member, he recalled, “Kapag sinabi ng Speaker, ng majority leader na “Ipasa na ‘yan,’ ay talagang ipapasa na ‘yan. Wala talaga tayong magagawa. You can raise hell and high water, you can debate and ask questions, pero ‘pag na overrule ka ng majority, wala tayong magagawa.”

In contrast, he affirmed, “Sa Senate, we have rules and traditions, and we follow traditions more than the rules. Because we can do the same, but time and time again, the Senate has proven to be a bastion of democracy of our country and we allow all our colleagues to raise issues, questions, debate on it on the floor.”

Appearing at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Zubiri added, “Of course, except for filibustering. Yung filibustering hindi na po uso ‘yan, dahil gawain ‘yan ng ating mga ninuno sa Senado. Pero ngayon, for the good of the country, basta maganda po para sa ating bayan, ay pwede nating pag-usapan ng masinsinan, and of course, come up with a compromise na maipasa natin itong mga batas na ito.”

“So, we are ready and raring to go by the first quarter of this year to take up all our priority measures like the Virology Institute; the creation of the Center for Disease Control; the medical—bills that will help increase our economic standing, and many, many others. So ‘yan ang pag-uusapan natin ngayon at, of course, pagdedebatehan namin sa Senado this coming first quarter.”

“With eagle eyes, we are going to look at this budget bill,” Zubiri said, referring to the  senators’ readiness in tracking spending by agencies of their approved 2023 budgets, in order to check chronic underspending by some critical agencies like the Transportation and Health departments.

The Senate leader indicated that “definitely, there will be a realignment of budgets by 2024,” signaling that “we will be using, of course, the knowledge of what we have seen in this year’s 2023 budget. That is the commitment that we do every year to our scarce resources, particularly, our budget, our national budget, through the oversight functions.”

Speaking in Filipino, the senator pointed out that if they were sleeping on their job, “you would not see the brazen differences when it comes to budget spending. We will have eagle eyes, bantayan natin.”

“We’ll have eagle eyes, bantayan natin talaga sila, and then pagdating ng discussions on October for the 2024 budget, tatanungin namin isa-isa itong mga ahensyang ito kung ano bang ginagawa nila sa ating pondo,” he added.

For example, Zubiri confirmed that, “together with Sen. Sonny Angara and Sen. JV Ejercito, the budget of the Department of Health [DOH] when it comes to specialty hospitals. We added P10 billion, if I’m not mistaken…but we added about P10 billion more to the budget of the DOH to retrofit all the regional hospitals, to include the Heart Centers, Lung Centers, Kidney Institute offices in these regional hospitals. Nag-agree na po kami na hindi na po kami magtatayo ng stand alone. Ibig sabihin, kasi napakamahal, magtatayo ng isang building para sa Heart Center, Kidney Center, matagal at mahal. Retrofit na lang, kasi marami naman lugar ang regional hospitals, malalaki.”

Moreover, he added, “Pwede tayong maglagay ng wing, a heart wing, or a kidney wing, of the regional centers. That’s why we added P10 billion to start off with the large regional centers, like Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, Vicente Sotto sa Cebu, Northern Luzon lalagyan din natin, syempre, sa Bicol Region. So ang mga kababayan natin di na kailangang pumunta pa sa Manila para magpagamot, they can do it now in the regional centers with qualified specialty doctors.

“Now, ‘pag hindi nila ginawa ‘yan by the end of 2023, we will grill them, the DOH, on why they have not properly implemented the funds,” Zubiri said.

Image credits: Contributed photo

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