Legislative mill churning amid impeachment saga

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

December 29, 2017, 2:51 pm

MANILA -- Amid several legislative inquiries and a series of impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives remained focus on performing its main function of churning out laws that are pro-people and pro-development.

This year, the House had its hands full with various congressional hearings on big issues such as the PHP6.4-billion drug shipment mess hounding the Bureau of Customs, the deadly mayhem at the Resorts World Manila hotel, the alleged misuse of Ilocos Norte tobacco funds, and the substandard housing projects for Yolanda victims, among others.

The chamber was also rocked by several impeachment complaints lodged against the highest officials of the land, including President Rodrigo Duterte, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Commission on Elections chair Andres Bautista.

The chamber's legislative performance, despite the explosive disturbances, has been productive.

According to Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, the House processed a total of 2,100 measures in 145 session days of the 17th Congress or an average of 14 measures processed per day.

Fariñas said 39 measures were already enacted into law, foremost of them are the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, 10-year Philippine passport validity,5-year driver's license, and expanding the Anti-Money Laundering Act coverage.

President Rodrigo Duterte also recently signed into law the proposed 2018 national budget and the administration's first tax reform package contained in the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill.

Meanwhile, pending before the bicameral committee are measures on establishing a national mental health policy, a national policy on ease of doing business, and an amendment to the Sotto law which includes within its coverage journalists from broadcast and news agencies.

Fariñas highlighted that the House was able to approve 354 bills on third and final reading.

Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin said the lower chamber remains on track with its legislative agenda, approving seven of its nine priority measures.

Among the priority bills approved include the Utilization of the Coconut Levy Fund, United National Identification System Act, Strengthening the Balik Scientist Program, Occupational Safety and Health Standards Compliance Act, Enhanced Universal Health Care Act, and Amendments to the Public Service Act. Meanwhile, the comprehensive tax reform program is up for President Duterte's signature.

As for the identified bills in the House-Senate Common Legislative Priorities, Garin said the House has already approved three bills on final reading including the Free School Feeding Act, Expanded Local Absentee Voting Act, and the Estate Tax Reform Act.

Fariñas said both Houses of Congress convened in a joint session twice -- in July and in December -- to approve the resolutions granting President Duterte's request to extend martial law in Mindanao until December 2017, and subsequently the second request for the entirety of 2018.

The House also passed on third reading the joint resolution seeking to increase the base pay of cops and soldiers. (PNA)