House adjourns, approves 389 bills

AS the First Regular Session adjourned Friday of last week, the House of Representatives approved 389 measures including six coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) response measures and nine priority bills, which were mentioned in the 2019 State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The SONA priority measures include Postponement of the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, Establishment of Malasakit Centers, major tax reform measures such as Increasing and Restructuring the Excise Tax Rates on Alcohol, Heated Tobacco, and Vapor Products, the Corporate Income Tax & Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA), the Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA), the Real Property Valuation and Assessment Act, the Creation of the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment, the Creation of the National Academy of Sports, and the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, which increased the salary of teachers and nurses.

For the past 10 months of the 18th Congress, under the leadership of Speaker Alan Cayetano, the House of Representatives through House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez has also approved measures of major importance which were enacted into laws, such as: Republic Act (RA) 11465, the P4.1-trillion 2020 General Appropriations Act which was passed in record time last September 2019; and RA No. 11468, also known as the “National Day of Remembrance for Crash Victims, Survivors and their Families Act.”

Cayetano congratulated his colleagues for their remarkable performance and hard work as the First Regular Session ended last week.

“To all my colleagues, I am very proud of you,” Cayetano remarked in his closing speech before the session adjourned.

“So, dear members of Congress, let us continue to give hope sa ating mga kababayan. ‘Be patient in affliction.’ Kung tama ang ginagawa ng Executive Branch, suportahan natin. Kung mali, let us continue to show kindness, makipag-usap tayo. But let us make sure they know there will be an accounting,” he added.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the 18th Congress was able to sustain its momentum of performance and productivity.

According to the Statistical Report released by the Committee on Rules for the period of July 22, 2019 to June 5, 2020, the House of Representatives has approved 389 measures while a total of 1,630 measures have been processed. 

Of the 389 measures approved, there were nine bills enacted into law, eight local and national measures transmitted to the President for signature, 74 resolutions adopted, one joint resolution adopted, 250 local and national bills passed on Third Reading, 32 bills approved on Second Reading, two bills which adopted Senate Version, five local and national bills which concurred with Senate amendments and eight local bills passed without Senate amendments. 

Based on official records from Congress, 18th Congress has exceeded the record of the 17th Congress for the First Regular Session in terms of the total approved measures and total bills processed.

The number of approved measures during the First Regular Session in the 18th Congress is 34% higher than the 290 approved measures in the previous Congress for the same period. On the other hand, the total measures processed for the same period was also higher by 31% compared with the 1,247 measures processed in the 17th Congress.

RA No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which was signed into law last March granting President Duterte additional special powers to combat the pandemic crisis, was the first among the six COVID-19 response measures approved by the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, the President signed into law the measure establishing the National Academy of Sports System Act, which seeks to implement a quality and enhanced secondary education program, integrated with a special curriculum in sports.

In line with its commitment to strengthen government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Representatives has passed on third and final reading at least five measures to help mitigate effects to the Filipinos, protect the health and safety of frontliners and high risk population and restore economic growth, which include House Bill (HB) 6815 or the P1.3-trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines (ARISE Philippines Act), HB 6817 or the proposed COVID-19-Related Anti-Discrimination Act, HB No. 6865 or the “Crushing COVID-19 Act” that mandates the conduct of baseline Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing as the protocol for COVID-19 testing for the vulnerable members of the society, HB 6816 or the proposed “Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act” that seeks to help financial institutions resolve their debts and manage their non-performing assets (NPAs), and HB 6920 or the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act of 2020.

The sixth COVID-response measure, which is considered to be another milestone for the 18th Congress, is the passage of HB 6864 or the proposed “Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020” on Second Reading. The bill aims to prepare and educate Filipinos for life through new norms of social or physical distancing and safety measures in government and private offices, schools, commercial establishments, and other public spaces.