MANILA - Senate’s resumption of session on Monday was supposed to end without any fanfare, but was concluded with a little drama after Sen. Grace Poe “walked out.”
Poe, chairperson of the Senate Public Services Committee, was scheduled to sponsor or defend eight pending local franchise bills during the afternoon session.
But her period of interpellation was moved to a later time following the decision of majority leader Sen. Migz Zubiri to call in Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian for his sponsorship speech for Senate Bill 2152, which centers on the proposal to enhance teaching education in the Philippines.
Gatchalian’s speech was seconded by the co-sponsorship speech of Sen. Joel Villanueva for the same measure.
Zubiri then asked Poe’s consideration if she could allow Sen. Richard Gordon to deliver a privilege speech first regarding the state of the Philippine General Hospital, which Poe agreed to.
But the promise to call her after Gordon’s speech was delayed anew after Zubiri called in Gatchalian again for the adoption of a bicameral conference regarding the Philippines Research and Establish Institute.
At that point, Poe was caught turning off her video camera. When it was Zubiri’s turn to acknowledge her for her sponsorship speech, she was no longer responding to the call.
Zubiri then declared several minutes of recess to communicate with Poe.
When the session resumed, a visibly affected Zubiri relayed to the plenary that Poe refused to participate further in the session due to too much delay in the proceedings.
“I want to put it on record, I apologize. I know that she has to tackle several franchise bills. Unfortunately, there were a lot of convergents of requests today, asking me to prioritize their measures, particularly those who are in plenary,” he said.
“Definitely, we are ready to pass these tonight. Unfortunately, she’s no longer available to sponsor these measures tonight,” Zubiri added.
He then reminded his co-senators of their agreed rule in the higher chamber that senators who are physically present will be given a priority to take the floor.
Poe was only virtually present during Monday’s session.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III acknowledged such rule, said that under Senate rules, the sitting majority leader can decide on what bill to take.
Zubir explained that sponsorship of measures, especially local bills, usually take the back seat in favor of proposed national measures that are up for second and third reading approvals. He said that more important measures, specifically those approved in the caucus, will be prioritized before considering what’s in the order of business.
Before the session was adjourned, the Senate leadership appointed Zubiri, Sen. Sonny Angara, Sen. Franklin Drilon and Senate President pro tempore Ralph Recto as members of the congressional oversight committee for Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Act.