Congressmen to senators: We are co-equal


    CONGRESSMEN are fuming at their Senate counterparts for what they say were unethical antics meant at shaming them over the two Houses’ differing versions of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2.

    The center of the verbal tussle is the House contingent’s proposal to the bicameral meetings to set aside P10 billion to fund tourism infrastructure under the Bayanihan 2, which was approved last Thursday in the bicameral level and ratified by the Senate on the same day.

    The House is set to ratify the bicameral version when it resumes its session today.

    Congressmen were irked at Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon for claiming the Senate had stopped the House contingent’s plan to have a P10-billion funding for the construction of comfort rooms in tourist spots and road constructions to tourism destinations amid the pandemic.

    Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor lamented that some senators “have developed this mindset that they are somewhat superior to members of the House, when in fact, we are co-equal members of the Congress.”

    He said some senators “haughtily see themselves on a pedestal, even if many of them or their peers have also served as House members before being elected to the Senate.”

    Defensor said: “Some senators fancy themselves to be the better legislators and look at us members of the House with condescension, and yet throw caution to the wind and desperately woo our support in our respective congressional bailiwicks come election time.”
    Deputy speaker for finance Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, principal author of the bill at the House, slammed Drilon and put the heat back on him.

    He likewise insisted that records will show that the House’ version prevailed over the senators’ proposal to earmark a specific amount for the tourism industry which the Department of Finance and the House panel objected to “because if we start earmarking for a specific industry like tourism then the other sectors like transport, education, construction, manufacturing, cooperatives and others will also demand earmarking.”

    The House contingent had wanted the P10-billion fund to be earmarked for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the infrastructure arm of the Department of Tourism.

    The proposal was turned down by the Senate contingent. In the end, P1 billion was allocated for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), P6 billion was set aside for soft loans for micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the tourism sector as proposed by the DOT, former tourism secretaries and industry players; and P3 billion will be given to the Department of Labor and Employment for displaced tourism workers.