House vows to tap oversight powers for effective law implementation

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

January 22, 2024, 8:47 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – Speaker Martin Romualdez on Monday said it would exercise its oversight function to ensure the effective implementation of laws, particularly the PHP5.768 trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2024.

In his speech during the resumption of session, Romualdez said the House has more time to exercise its oversight power following the passage of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s priority bills on final reading.

The House has passed 17 priority measures listed by President Marcos in his second State of the Nation Address, as well as all the 20 bills the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council had targeted for approval before the end of 2023.

“Hindi lamang tayo gumagawa ng batas. Ayon sa ating mandato, sinisigurado rin natin na naipapatupad ang mga batas na ito nang wasto at patas. Tinitiyak natin na bawat batas na ipinapasa natin ay may direktang pakinabang sa ordinaryong mamamayan (We are not just crafting laws. Based on our mandate, we should ensure that these laws are implemented effectively and justly. We guarantee that every law that we pass would have a direct benefit to ordinary citizens),” Romualdez said.

He said the House would help oversee and implement the programs funded in the 2024 national budget, including assistance to the poor, farmers, and fisherfolk.

“Sa mga susunod na araw at buwan, ilalarga ng administrasyon ang malalaking programa para mabigyan ng ginhawa ang ating mga mamamayan sa harap ng inflation na nagaganap ngayon sa buong mundo (In the coming days and months, the administration would launch a program that would give relief to Filipinos in the face of rising inflation and other global issues)," he said.

He cited the PHP500 billion social amelioration program called Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita (AKAP) under this year's spending plan, which would benefit at least 12 million poor and low-income families or an estimated 48 million Filipinos.

AKAP aims to provide direct cash assistance to the “near poor” or families earning up to PHP23,000 a month.

“Lahat ng programang ito ay nilagyan natin ng sapat na pondo dito sa Kongreso. Tulungan natin ang Pangulo para matiyak na bawat sentimo sa mga programang ito ay makakarating sa lahat ng distrito - mula sa mga siyudad hanggang sa mga baryo (All of these programs have sufficient funding provided by Congress. We will help the President in making sure that every cent of this program would reach all districts--from cities to the outskirts),” he said.

Aside from overseeing the utilization of the 2024 budget, Romualdez noted that the House has "scrutinized government operations" by conducting legislative inquiries in aid of legislation.

"We engaged our counterparts in the executive department in open and honest discussions, gathered reliable information, and offered immediate recommendations,” he said.

Romualdez cited that just last week, upon his instruction, the House Committees on Ways and Means and on Senior Citizens, and the House Special Committee On Persons with Disabilities looked into gaps and confusion in the implementation of laws granting discounts, benefits and other privileges to millions of senior citizens, persons with disability (PWDs) and solo parents.

Senior citizens are entitled to a 20-percent discount on medicines, food items, and other purchases, plus a 12-percent value-added tax exemption.

The inquiry prompted popular coffee chain Starbucks to scrap its “one food item, one beverage” limit on the elderly’s 20-percent discount after apologizing for its “mistake.”

The panels are looking into amending the law to allow the application of promo discounts on top of the government-mandated discount.

The other recent inquiries conducted by the House include the massive power outage in Western Visayas that caused financial losses and hardship to businesses and households; and the procurement by the Philippine National Police of body-worn cameras and other mission-essential equipment, among others.

He said in the days ahead, the House would also continue to review laws and policies “to address pressing, contemporary issues and introduce reforms.”

“We need to strengthen the relevance and applicability of established laws and policies to align with existing conditions, including amendments to the Constitution, all for the benefit of the people and the economic prosperity of our nation,” he said.

He welcomed the decision of the Senate to join the House in its push for Charter reform so the country could attract more foreign investors, adding that it signals a "strong sense of unity and purpose" between the two chambers of Congress toward a "reformed, responsive, and result-oriented constitutional framework."

“It is critical that we facilitate the entry of foreign capital and direct investments into our economy. It is imperative that we reexamine the Constitution and carefully scrutinize pertinent economic provisions to eliminate the barriers that restrict potential growth,” he said. (PNA)