Senate panel gives go-signal to committee deliberations on proposed Dep’t of OFWs, other new gov’t agencies

Published February 1, 2021, 3:08 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Measures that seek the creation of new government agencies, such as the proposed Department of Overseas Filipinos (DOFil) and the Department of Disaster Resilience and Management, can now be tackled by their respective Senate committees simultaneously, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said on Monday.

(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Zubiri, who chairs the Senate Committee on Rules, said the committees handling the bills may now start deliberating on these measures, and once a committee report is filed, the Senate will hold an all-member caucus to discuss which would be prioritized for plenary discussion.

Also up for committee debates are the proposed Department of Culture and the Department of Water Management bill.

“The Senate works through a committee system…by practice and tradition, we have long given committees their sole prerogative and discretions regarding matters referred to them. Each committee has its sovereign right to bring out its committee report on a particular measure,” Zubiri said following a Senate hearing.

The Committee on Rules, he said, does not wish to interfere in whatever way with the committee system at work.

“The Senate is a collegial body with a collective decision. On the priorities of the Senate, we will take this up with an all-member caucus to discuss priorities that will be taken up on the floor,” the majority leader added.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon had earlier questioned the timing of the bills and urged the rules committee to look into the possible conflict in priorities that may arise between the Rightsizing Bill that Senate President Vicente Sotto III had filed and these pending bills.

Sotto’s bill primarily seeks a “holistic overhaul” to resolve the country’s “bloated bureaucracy” that has resulted to overemployment in government. Drilon underscored the need to tackle the Senate leader’s Senate Bill No. 244 first while hearings on the proposed creation of new agencies should be deferred.

But Senators Christopher “Bong” Go and Joel Villanueva, who both pressed for the passage of the DOFil, insisted that the measure merely seeks to merge offices with overlapping functions and consolidate budgetary allocations so the government can provide better and more efficient services to Filipino migrants and OFWs.

Villanueva, Senate labor committee chief, said the bill will also trim the “excess fat” in the bureaucracy.

“This is a welcome development. We will resume the committee hearings into the overseas Filipino department bills,” Villanueva said.

“The pandemic has exposed the weakness of our policies on OFWs, particularly our reintegration program to help them transition back to the local labor force,” he said.

Villanueva said his committee still supports the principles of rightsizing, and will do its best to tackle all issues and hear all sides being raised regarding the creation of DOFil.

“Who knows, this could be a model for rightsizing done right,” he said.

Drilon, in response, credited Villanueva’s diligence in prioritizing bills concerning the labor sector, particularly the country’s OFWs.

“So I have full confidence in the judgment of the good chair of the Committee on Labor, that he can influence the thinking of the committee to come up with the most rational solution to a very vexing issue of a bureaucracy, of rationalizing our bureaucracy versus the prioritization that we ought to have in lieu of the pandemic and the acute economic situation that we are in today,” Drilon said also during the committee hearing.