Senate rejects bicameral conference committee report arming firemen

Published June 3, 2021, 7:21 PM

by Mario Casayuran

The Senate rejected tonight a bicameral conference committee report containing a provision allowing some firemen to protect their fellow firemen while fighting fires.

The vote was eight in favor of approving the report, eight against the report and three, including Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, abstained.

Since the House of Representatives has voted to accept the report and both Houses are scheduled to adjourn sine die on Wednesday, June 2, Sotto said the House leadership would be asked by the Senate to reconstitute a new bicameral conference committee panel when both legislative chambers resume regular session in late July.

The report would be returned to the Senate conference committee for further discussion.

Another bicameral conference committee meeting between the Senate and the House of Representatives to iron out the disagreeing provision is no longer possible as the House panel has been discharged, Sotto explained.

Senator Ronald ‘’Bato’’ dela Rosa confirmed during the session that a provision allowing firefighters to carry firearms was inserted into the bicameral report on the bill modernizing the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

It was a matter of give and take, he explained.

Dela Rosa made the admission when interpellated by Senate Minority Leader Franklin M, Drilon who vehemently objected to the insertion in the report a provision allowing the arming of some firemen.

Drilon, a former Senate President, told his colleagues that 13 of them representing an absolute majority voted against the inclusion of this amendment when the bill seeking the modernization of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) was debated on the Senate floor.

He said it was very dangerous to allow the Senate contingent to go against the wishes of the Senate.

Senator Richard J. Gordon said this is ‘’a very substantive matter’’ that dela Rosa should have consulted with the Senate leadership when the House panel insisted in inserting the provision.

The job of protecting citizens, including firearms, rests on the Philippine National Police (PNP), Gordon pointed out.

Dela Rosa, a former PNP chief, said that the BFP wants to protect its firemen because some of them get hurt or stabbed when residents want to wrest firehoses from firemen and train them to their houses that are not yet on fire.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said he really wanted to modernize the BFP ‘’but all is not lost.’’

What the Senate can do is to ask the House leadership to create a new bicameral conference committee panel, he added.

The Senate deliberation on the report was slowed down when Sotto temporarily suspended it after Senator Cynthia Z. Villar questioned Sotto’s remark on Senator Christopher ‘’Bong’’ Go not being able to defend his vote which was not counted because it was on an ‘’off’’ mode.

After they resumed session at 7p.m., both Sotto and Villar said ‘’sorry’’ to each other.