House ends session on high note

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez presides over the first working session day of the House of Representatives in the Second Regular Session of the 17th Congress on July 24, 2017.

THE House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has worked faster and acted on a total of 2,929 measures from the opening of the 17th Congress in July 25, 2016 until the sine die adjournment on June 2, 2018.

In his acceptance speech at the opening of the 17th Congress Alvarez stressed the role of House members, which is to effect genuine change through enactment of laws that would give a better future for the Filipino nation.

With a total of 183 session days for the entire period, the House accomplishment translates to an average of 16 measures processed per session.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas submitted the House Accomplishment Report to the Speaker.

Of the 2,929 measures processed, a total of 96 measures were enacted into law, 30 of which are of national significance, 60 of local significance, while two are Joint Resolutions of Congress.

Additional measures are expected to be enacted into law in the coming days as 18 other measures have been transmitted to President Duterte for his approval and signature.

Meanwhile, a total of 9,826 measures were filed since the start of the 17th Congress, consisting of 7,826 bills and 2,000 resolutions. In addition, 770 committee reports were filed.

A total of 164 resolutions were adopted, broken down as follows: 131 regular resolutions; 10 resolutions on inquiries, in aid of legislation; 15 concurrent resolutions; four resolutions of both houses; one report on motu propio inquiry; two resolutions on impeachment; and one resolution of the Committee of the Whole.

Making life easier

However, while the quantity of measures the House has acted upon is considerable, Alvarez is even more proud of the quality of laws the chamber has helped to pass, particularly those that made life easier for many Filipinos.

Foremost in these laws is Republic Act No. 10931 entitled “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act”, which provides free tuition and miscellaneous fees in state universities and colleges, as well as in local colleges and in government run technical-vocational school.

The law gave every parent the hope to provide college education for their children.

Likewise, the enactment of RA 10969, also known as the “Free Irrigation Act” has lifted from the country’s small farmers—most of whom are already saddled with debts and high cost of farm inputs—the additional burden of paying irrigation fees.

By providing small farmers with free access to water, which is crucial in rice production, the law also unlocked the productivity potential of many of our country’s farmers that could provide them a way out of poverty.

Likewise, the House helped ensure indigent patients are accorded life-saving emergency medical treatment with the enactment of RA 10932, or ““An Act Strengthening The Anti-Hospital Deposit Law” by increasing the penalties against hospitals or clinics that refuse to treat patients in emergency or serious cases unless they could provide a certain amount as deposit.

The House also helped ease the burden on Filipino travellers abroad and local motorists with the enactment of two separate laws. With RA 10928, or “An Act Extending The Validity Of Philippine Passports”, Filipino passport holders can use their travel documents for up to 10 years before they are required to renew their passports. Previously, Philippine passports are valid only up to five years.

Likewise, with the signing into law of RA 10930, “Extending the Validity Period of Drivers’ Licenses”, motorists can now use their licence for five years instead of the previous three-year validity period.

Enhancing productivity

The House also sought to cut red tape and encourage more people to get into business with the enactment of RA 11032 or the “Ease of Doing Business” law, which prescribes a uniform guideline for the processing of business documents.

Among others, the law requires government agencies to act on applications within 3 days for simple transactions, 7 days for complex ones, and 20 days for the highly technical.

It also requires the establishment of one-stop-shops in every city or town and encourages local government units to automate their permit and license processing systems.

As more and more transactions conducted online, the enactment of HB 5225, providing “Free Internet Access in Public Places” would also serve to further enhance productivity.

Caring for the poor

In two separate joint resolutions, the House and the Senate also worked together to ease the plight of the poor and the lowly-paid public servants.

With the enactment last May 9, 2018 of House Joint Resolution 15 and its counterpart SJR 8 as Joint Resolution No. 2, housing units intended for the uniformed services which remained unused were made available to qualified poor beneficiaries, giving them the opportunity to have a dignified shelter of their own.

On the other hand, Joint Resolution No. 1 finally gave the military, the police and other members of the uniformed services in the country the increase in base pay that they have been hoping to receive for a long time.

Apart from these important legislations, the House also acted on the various reports of the bicameral conference committee during the Second Regular Session, ratifying a total of 12 bicameral conference committee reports, consisting of 11 national bills and one local bill.

These bicameral conference committee reports include the following measures: National Mental Health Policy, Anti-Hazing Act, Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund, National School Feeding Program, Occupational Safety and Health Standards, the Filipino Identification System, and Preservation and Management of Protected Areas.

In the pipeline

In addition to these accomplishments, the House has also approved on third and final reading various measure that are now awaiting action by the bicameral conference committee.

Topping the House bills pending at the bicam body is the historic HB 6475, also known as the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which the House approved with an overwhelming majority vote of 227-11 with two abstentions last March 31.

Passage of HB 6475, with Alvarez as the principal author, marks the end of uncertainty of the fate of the BBL which the previous Congress failed to pass.

It could be recalled that Duterte himself earlier appealed to both Houses of Congress to pass the BBL, saying it is necessary to stem the threat radical Islamist movement in Mindanao.

Other bills pending at the bicam include: HB 7436 or “ An Act Abolishing The Road Board”; HB 5777 entitled “Strengthening The National And Local Health And Nutrition Programs For Pregnant And Lactating Women, Adolescent Girls Of Reproductive Age And Teen-Age Mothers, Infants And Young Children”; and HB 5745 or “An Act Establishing The Coconut Farmers And Industry Development Trust Fund”.

In terms of plenary approval, the House approved on third and final reading a total of 429 bills and 29 bills on second reading before the sine die adjournment of the Second Regular Session.

Approved on third reading were 160 national bills, 268 local bills and one Joint Resolution.

Among the bills the House approved on third reading and final reading are :

• HB 7525 entitled “An Act Increasing The Monthly Pension Of Senior Veterans”
• HB 7449 or “An Act Appropriating P1,161,710,000 As Supplemental
Appropriations to Dengvaxia Vaccinees”
• HB 7303 entitled “An Act Instituting Absolute Divorce And Dissolution Of
• HB 7302 or the “Budget Reform Act”
• HB 3988 or the “Conjugal Partnership Of Gains”
• HB 7185 or “An Act Recognizing The Foreign Decree Of Termination Of Marriage”
• HB 7163 entitled “An Act Penalizing The Act Of Throwing Hard Objects At Motor
• HB 7193 entitled “An Act Providing A Framework For The Right To Adequate Food”
• HB 7233 entitled “An Act Requiring The Registration Of All Users Of Subscriber Identity Module Cards.”

p: wjg