Romualdez: House to pass Duterte priority bills

Martin Romualdez
House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez: “We, in the House of Representatives, are committed to deliver to the President the measures needed to support his vision for the nation in the years to come.”
Rodrigo Duterte

THE House of Representatives is ready to stand up to the task and pass the priority bills outlined by President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday afternoon, including thorough deliberations on several measures calling for the reimposition of death penalty for drug-related charges, House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez said Tuesday.

“The House also assures that the death penalty measures will be deliberated on thoroughly,” said Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House committee on rules. “We, in the House of Representatives, are committed to deliver to the President the measures needed to support his vision for the nation in the years to come.”

“We are ready to take on the challenge,” Romualdez said following the Duterte’s  speech where he also reiterated the need for Congress to pass several measures that were already mentioned in his last year’s SONA such as the bill reviving the death penalty by lethal injection for drug-related offenses; the proposed law creating the Department of Overseas Filipinos that was already transmitted by the House of Representatives to the Senate; the measure creating the Department of Disaster and Resilience (DDR), among other measures.

“Despite the uncertain times brought by the global pandemic, we will ensure that the administration’s priority bills will be realized with efficiency for the welfare of the Filipino people,” assured Romualdez, also president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), assured.

Duterte, in his speech, called on Congress to expedite the passage of several key measures including the Bayanihan To Heal as One Act 2; the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives Enterprises Act (CREATE); the National Housing Development bill; and the Rental Housing Subsidy bill. 

“The House had already passed on third and final reading some of the measures mentioned by the President on Monday such as the CREATE, and the bill creating the Department of Overseas Filipinos. Others are either being deliberated at the committees or at the plenary,” said Romualdez, a lawyer from the University of the Philippines (UP) and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).

LAWMAKERS HAIL THE PRESIDENT’S SONA

Ako Bisaya party-list Sonny Lagon and Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of Batangas said the House leadership has been always focused and committed to pass quality legislation at all times.

“We thank the President for a job well done. He is always selfless and committed to make the lives of Filipino people comfortable in these troubled times. May God always guide and protect you Mr. President,” said Lagon, an ally of Romualez’s Lakas-CMD.

“Through the collective effort and hard work of the House members under the leadership of Speaker [Alan Peter] Cayetano and Majority Leader Romualdez, the President is assured that his legislative agenda that he spelled out in the last SONA will be delivered to his table,” said Abu.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, said the reimposition of the death penalty on drug-related heinous crimes is a deterrent to crime.

“The proposal should be seen in the context of prevention, and deterrence of crime,” said Barbers. “The President is pushing for the return of capital punishment because the illegal drugs trade continues even if it has been diminished because of the government’s war on drugs.”

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, thanked Duterte for calling on Congress for the active passage of his bills to help propel the economy.

“The state of the nation is, without doubt, challenging. The President was straightforward about the challenges the country has and will face during this pandemic. We in the economic team of the House of Representatives take the President’s requests for the quick passage of a second stimulus package and of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE), as unambiguous directions for where we should go,” said Salceda, principal author of the bills.

“The President’s request is a recognition of the many months of work that I was entrusted with as co-chair of the Economic Stimulus Recovery Cluster, and chair of the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives. Rest assured that, as main author of both of these measures, I will continue to work with my colleagues to get these measures enacted as soon as possible, by this week if my colleagues and the Senate agree,” said Salceda.

“I also thank the President for requesting the passage of the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST), more credit access for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and regulatory relief for small businesses. The public discussion of these measures began as policy briefers my office wrote for the House leadership and my colleagues,” Salceda added.

Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur has pushed the immediate congressional passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 to arm Duterte with continued special powers to deal with the COVID-19 contagion with the same decisiveness and available resources that had allowed his government to save 1.3 million to 3.5 million Filipinos from coronavirus infection since the pandemic struck this year.

Villafuerte, who is the lead proponent in the bigger legislative chamber of House Bill (HB) 6593 or Bayanihan 2 and author of its precursor, Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, made this call as Duterte sought in his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) the swift congressional approval of Bayanihan 2.

“The Congress needs to arm the President anew with special powers for his government to best deal with the highly infectious and lethal virus that apparently has no intention of going away anytime soon,” Villafuerte said.

ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Niña Taduran said President Duterte made a clear program to defeat COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sa isyu ng pagtugon sa COVID-19 pandemic, malinaw din ang kanyang tinuran kung paano ito matutugunan gaya ng  pagkakaroon ng National Disease and Prevention Authority at tapat syang inamin ang sinasabi niyang imperfect na SAP (Social Amelioration Program). Dapat aniyang pairalin ang unity at solidarity lalo na sa mga lessor na kailangan tumulong sa mga hindi nakakabayad ng upa. Pinasalamatan nya ang lahat ng mga taong nasa likod ng pagtugon ng gobyerno sa COVID-19,” said Taduran.

Although he would have wished that the President announced the postponement of classes from August to September or October and advised the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to stand down on requiring dividers for couples riding on a motorcycle, Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong said “I am still happy that President Duterte provided us with fresh insights on what the government intends to do so that we can all survive this corona virus pandemic.”

“It provides us a glimpse of the government’s template on how to jumpstart the economy and provide support for our people. Medyo nabuhayan tayo ng loob sa gitna ng krisis na ating nararanasan sa ngayon,” said Ong.

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho “Koko” Nograles welcomed President Duterte’s warning to expropriate telecommunication companies Smart and Globe if they do not improve their services by December.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa Pangulo sa panawagan niyang ayusin na ng mga telecommunication companies ang kanilang serbisyo. Salamat. Alam niyo ba na ayon sa NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) 63% sa ating bansa ay ‘dark’ at walang signal noong 2016. Sa 2018 ‘yung numero na iyan ay hindi gumalaw. Sigurado po ako sa panawagan ng Pangulo, sisilipin ng Kongreso ang State of Communications ng ating bansa. Sa panahon ng pandemya, napakahalaga ng communications technology. Ang new normal at future economy natin ay nakasalalay sa mabuting communications infrastructure. Maganda ang panawagan ni Pangulo. Tututukan natin ito,” said Nograles.

Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian, the chairman of the House committee on trade and industry, said he is very delighted that “the President emphasized the need to build confidence in online transactions, by providing stronger protection for online consumers and enabling measures for online businesses through the enactment of the Internet Transactions Act.”

“These concerns cannot come at a more appropriate time as this pandemic has forced millions to resort to ecommerce as the primary means to transact. Ecommerce will be the new normal but unfortunately, regulations to protect consumers and businesses from unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of this borderless economy are inadequate. Many are still able to hide behind computer screen names, operate fly-by-night online stores, sell fake items, and scam innocent consumers and merchants. Their actions impede the growth of the internet economy because the trust in online transactions are eroded,” said Gatchalian.

“I completely agree with the President that it is time to pass a bill that is responsive to the needs of the consumers while at the same time, ensuring the growth of ecommerce in the Philippines. As the Chairman of the Committee on Trade and Industry, I will make sure that the President’s pronouncement is attended to at once and the bill is passed to protect not only the consumers and but also our MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises),” Gatchalian said.

House Deputy Majority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera said “President Duterte gave a hopeful and reassuring message to the nation that the COVID-19 vaccine is just around the corner and we will soon overcome this pandemic crisis, which has been wreaking havoc on the country’s public health and economy. Filipinos may find comfort in his assurance that the country is in a better position to weather COVID-19.”

“I especially liked his focus on pump-priming the recovery and rehabilitation of micro, small and medium enterprises. His promise to intensify government efforts to help pandemic-hit MSMEs, call for banks to prevent loan defaults, and appeal to lessors to come up with amenable arrangement with tenants are exactly what businesses grappling with the devastating impacts of COVID-19 want to hear from him. The President made it clear that he has and will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of all Filipinos with his continuing commitment to fight illegal drugs, corruption, terrorism and criminality. It’s probably his best SONA speech yet,” said Herrera.

Construction Workers Solidarity (CWS) party-list Rep. Romeo Momo, Sr. expressed its profound gratitude to President Duterte's acknowledgement of the country's economic managers position that infrastructure undertaking is an "effective tool to help spur high growth, attract investment, create jobs and achieved financial inclusion for all Filipinos."

“Let me emphasize that CWS party-list will work hand-in-hand with the concerned government agencies in realizing President Duterte's vision for the local construction sector, as well as upholding the rights and uplifting the lives of our beloved construction workers. We need not emphasize that while infrastructure is the backbone of the Philippine economy, the Filipino construction workers serves as the backbone of the Philippine infrastructure projects,” said Momo.

“In this regard, let me make mention that since our construction workers are back in their respective job sites or place of work, they need help not just from the government, but from the private sector as well, particularly in having necessary protection against the possibility of contracting the dreaded pneumonia-like virus," Momo added.

Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, the chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food, said "I commend  the President for the inclusion of agricultural development on his development and governance agenda through implementing programs for agricultural development. As chairperson of the House committee on agriculture and food, I am elated to hear about the P66 billion Agriculture Stimulus Package.”

“Actually this package is contained in the approved house bill we vigorously defended in the plenary before its adjournment last month. This outlines the various interventions of the government on agriculture and fishery sectors towards the post COVID 19 agricultural development. Part of this Congressional initiative also establishes mechanisms for rural agriculture financing schemes.

The President deserves to be recognized for his thoughts that along his Build, Build, Build program, we must also focus on Plant, Plant, Plant, in agriculture.  Indeed, with improved infrastructure, we have to ensure our agriculture growth thru production and marketing. Finally, the President's thoughts on the Coconut Levy funds deserve to be supported. In the committee on agriculture, we are about to approve the substitute bill on Coco Levy Trust Fund, outlining the management and utilization of the levy assets as a trust fund for the benefit of the coco farmers and industry. We assure the President that all his thoughts and guidance will be reflected in the House bill all for the welfare of the coconut farmers," said Enverga.