By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The bill that would supposedly provide a P1.16-billion supplemental budget for the possible medical needs of children who were vaccinated with Dengvaxia failed to hurdle the Senate as it went on a break Thursday.
Despite President Duterte’s certification of it as an “urgent” measure, the Upper Chamber was not able to discuss and approve the P1.16-billion proposed supplemental budget due to lack of time and quorum.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon questioned the existence of a quorum after the senators passed on third and final reading the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law past 2 a.m. Thursday. He moved to adjourn the session sine die.
But Senator Loren Legarda, finance committee chair and sponsor of the supplemental budget, insisted that the enrolled bill be taken up in the plenary.
“The rule is, we should have a quorum to discuss, take up any business. We’re here but unfortunately there not enough of our colleagues to constitute a quorum. We cannot conduct business,” Drilon said.
“Even if we sponsor it now, it cannot be passed…If this was brought to this Chamber about a week ago, we could have passed it,” he added.
Legarda, in her explanation, said the Senate received the House of Representatives-approved version Tuesday night. She said she had asked that the supplemental budget be discussed, but the leaders agreed to prioritize deliberations on the BBL, which is also a priority measure.
With the closing of the 17th Congress’ second regular session, all pending bills would have to be taken up after the break in July.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, a co-author of the budget measure, took to social media his disappointment on the delay of the supplemental budget’s approval.
He chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography which led the inquiry on the controversy on the government’s P3.5-billion dengue immunization program.
“Sad that Supplemental Appropriations for Dengvaxia Vaccinees/Victims was caught in the middle of a heated debate after BBL passage. [I] Feel bad for Dengvaxia vaccinees/victims. Sen. Loren and I tried our best to have it approved,” Ejercito wrote on Twitter.
The Lower Chamber approved on final reading Tuesday afternoon its consolidated bill on the P1.16 –B proposed appropriation for the medical expenses of the 800,000 children injected with Dengvaxia should they fall ill due to the vaccine.
The fund was from the money which French drug company Sanofi Pasteur, the manufacturer of Dengvaxia, returned to the government through its local distributor Zuellig Pharma.