SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives of the 17th Congress had a highly productive First Regular Session, approving a total of 210 bills in the entire period.
In accordance with legislative procedure, after transmission to the Senate, 179 are still awaiting action of the Upper Chamber while the rest are either in bicameral conference committee or for signature of the President to become full-fledged laws.
Rep. Dakila Carlo E. Cua, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, attributes the achievements of the chamber to the personal brand of leadership of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
“Ibang-iba po ang panahon ngayon sa 17th Congress dahil maraming pagbabago sa ilalim ng pamumuno ng ating mahal na Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. For the first time, unti-unting nagkakaroon ng mas disiplinadong performance ang Kongreso,” Cua said in a radio interview.
Alvarez was known to report for work early, normally an hour before the official start of work at 9:00 in the morning, to attend to pending paper works or perform other official functions. When he first reported for work, he arrived too early that even the guards were not yet in their posts.
With the brand of work ethic set by Alvarez, Cua said attendance in plenary sessions had improved that quorum was declared in all 97 session days of the First Regular Session.
Committee hearings customarily done from Monday to Wednesday were held on Thursdays, Fridays or even during the weekends whenever deemed necessary. Committee hearings were held too when Congress is in recess.
“Mayroon din po kaming hearing during the break, patuloy po ang trabaho. Ibig sabihin, napaka-aktibo po dahil sa pangunguna rin po ng ating mahal na Speaker. Siya rin mismo kasi ang nag-aattend ng mga hearing kahit na naka-recess ang Kongreso,” Cua said.
With Speaker Alvarez breaking tradition by actively participating in the committee hearings, participation of committee members in the hearings had also showed marked improvement.
According to Cua, the accomplishment of the House in the First Regular Session can also be gauged through several landmark legislations it passed that would benefit the Filipino people, particularly of the poor.
Cua cited the passage of the Free College Education Bill as one of the most significant achievements of the House for the First Regular Session. The bill provides for free tuition and other school fees in state-run colleges and universities (SUCs), as well as state-run technical-vocational school.
“So ngayon lang po nangyari sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas na ang college tuition fee ay papasanin na ng gobyerno,” Cua stressed.
Likewise, the House approved the bill for stricter implementation of the law prohibiting hospitals and clinics from demanding advanced payment or deposits from patients before treatment to ensure that poor patients—including pregnant women about to give birth---are given proper medical treatment that could save their lives in emergency and serious situations.
The House also approved the bill for 10-year validity of Philippine passports, which was meant to save time and money for millions of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) all over the globe who would no longer need to renew their passports every five year.
Aside from the passport law, the chamber approved the bill for 5-year validity of Philippine Driver’s License. The measure seeks to ease the burden on motorists who had to line up at the LTO (Land Transportation Office) every three years to renew their license.
Listening to the pleas of Social Security Service pensioners, the House approved the joint resolution granting P2,000 increase in their monthly pensions.
To address the problem of lost productivity caused by regular traffic jams, the House also passed the Free WiFi bill. By providing Internet access in public places so that even while in transit transactions can be made and employees can process and send needed documents. not to mention access to social media sites for entertainment.
In addition, Cua said the measure will enable residents from far-flung barangays access to Internet for study or research on farming or their small businesses they want to put up, as well as information on current events all over the world.
“So hindi na sila nae-exclude. We want every Filipino to be part of the global community para sila ay may tsansang iangat ang kanilang buhay,” Cua stressed.
Another important measure the House approved during the period is the Free Irrigation Bill.
“Gusto po ng ating Pangulo at ng ating Speaker na yung mga magsasaka ay hindi na kailangang singilin pa ng irrigation fee. Yun naman ay investment ng gobyerno at ang serbisyo niyan ay talagang para sa ating mga magsasaka,” Cua said.
The House likewise approved the administration’s tax reform measure, otherwise known as Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN, which exempts from personal income taxes those earning below P250,000.00 annually and effectively lowers the tax rate for all fixed wage earners.
On the other hand, the measure removes the VAT exemption and imposed excise taxes on several items to generate enough revenue to fund the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program, which is expected to create more jobs and further strengthen our economy.
The House also approved the bill including journalists from broadcast media, news agencies and Internet publications among those exempted from compulsion to reveal their sources of information. It enlarges the mantle of protection for press freedom which is essential to a health democracy.
Also included in the most important accomplishment of the House during the period is the passage of the Death Penalty Bill for drug-related offenses. The measure supports the campaign of Pres. Duterte against illegal drugs and seeks to curb incidence of heinous crimes by drug-crazed criminals.
With such achievement of the House for the First Regular Session, Cua expressed confidence they could provide even more contributions for the country’s growth and development, in particular by providing appropriate funding support to critical programs of the administration.
“So iyan lang ang ilan sa mga highlights na nagawa natin, and I think dito sa darating na budget ng ating Pangulong Duterte, makikita po natin yung kanyang vision towards doon sa sinasabi nilang Dutertenomics, “ Cua said.