THE House leadership under Speaker Lord Allan Velasco will work double time to expedite the approval of all legislative measures identified by the Duterte administration as priority bills aimed at strengthening the country’s economy, protecting Filipinos from the ravages of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic and recent calamities, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez said on Sunday.
“We go back to work Monday with a full plate of priority bills scheduled for plenary and committee deliberation. Speaker Lord Allan Velasco wants to place in the front burner all economic and anti-poverty measures so we can approve the President’s priority measures before the onset of the election season next year,” Romualdez, chairman of the powerful House Committee on Rules, said as Congress resumes session this Monday after a month-long break.
“We are also considering filing and expediting the approval of a bill that would extend the validity of the Bayanihan 2 bill to enable the national government to complete the release of our P140-billion response to the coronavirus pandemic even after the end of year 2020,” added Romualdez, a lawyer and President of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).
Included in the list of priority economic measures for plenary interpellations, according to Romualdez, are House Bill (HB) 7904 or Amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, HB 7749 or the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE), HB 7425 or the Digital Transactions Value Added Tax, HB 7406 or Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Modernization Program, HB 6135 or Fiscal Mining Regime, and HB 7425 or Internet Transactions Act/E-Commerce Law.
Pending under committee deliberations, Romualdez said, are the Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP) Services Separation Retirement, and Pension Bill; Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Bill; Coconut Farmers Trust Fund Bill; Department of Water Resources and Water Regulatory Commission Bill; Warehouse Receipts Bill; National Disease Prevention and Management Authority Bill; and the National Land Use Bill.
Romualdez said these bills are among the legislative imperatives needed to help ensure that the economy recovers quickly from the corona-induced crisis in a strong, sustainable, and resilient manner.
“Aside from these bills, the House leadership under Speaker Velasco are also committed to fast-track the approval of other legislative measures that were considered as priority measures by President Duterte in his previous State-of-the Nation Addresses,” the Majority Leader said.
“On top of these priorities is the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act, which the House expects to ratify as soon as both chambers agree to reconcile the conflicting provisions in a bicameral conference,” he added.
The SONA priorities include the National Disease Prevention Management Authority, Evacuation Centers Bill, Assignment of Health Workers in all Barangays, Additional Benefits for Solo Parents, Magna Carta for Barangay, Restoration of Death Penalty for Plunder and Heinous Crimes related to drug, Modernization of the Bureau of immigration, Rental Housing Subsidy Bill, National Housing Development Bill, Medical Reserve Corps, Advance Nursing Education Act, Boracay Island Authority, and Amendments to Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016.
Romualdez said Speaker Velasco, himself, has identified seven legislative measures that the latter wish to be prioritized for deliberation by the various House committees.
These are the Coconut Levy Fund, National Land Use Act, Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or ROTC, Rightsizing the National Government, Right to Adequate Food, Anti-Ethnic, Racial and Religious Discrimination Act, and On-Site, In-City Near City Local Government Resettlement Program.
“I am appealing to the House committee chairmen and secretariat to focus on these measures and submit their committee reports as soon as possible. We, in the Committee on Rules, are committed to put these in the priority list for plenary deliberation as soon as the committee reports are submitted to us,” he said.
Romualdez said these bills are eligible for swift approval in the committee level under Rule 10 Section 48 of the House of Representatives.
The Rule provides that: “In case of bills or resolutions that are identified as priority measures of the House, which were previously filed in the immediately preceding Congress and have already been approved on third reading, the same maybe disposed of as matters already reported upon the approval of majority of the members of the committee present, there being a quorum.”
“The concerned committees for these measures may meet for just one hearing and immediately refer the committee reports for plenary deliberation by invoking Section 48 of the House rules,” said Romualdez.
Romualdez said the Speaker is also eyeing the immediate approval of the following proposals as his priority bills: Ordaining the Development of the Downstream Natural Gas Industry, Internet Transaction Act, Military Uniformed Personnel (MUP) Pension Fund, Magna Carta for Barangays, Amendments to the Revised Penal Code, Amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act, Marinduque Special Economic Zone Act, Marinduque Sports Academy and Training Center Act, and Bisekleta Para sa Kinabukasan Act.
“All other priority measures to be identified by the Speaker as his priority bills are expected to face easy sailing in the House of Representatives,” Romualdez said.
Earlier, Romualdez forwarded an initial list of anti-corruption bills to Speaker Velasco for possible inclusion in the House legislative agenda to boost President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s campaign against corruption in the government.
Velasco and Romualdez had vowed to heed the directive of President Duterte to intensify efforts against corruption in the government.
The five measures are Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero’s House Bill (HB) No. 7230 which seeks to augment the financial resources of the Office of the Ombudsman by giving it a 30 percent share in any property forfeited in favor of the State under Republic Act (RA) No.139, otherwise known as the Forfeiture Law; HB Nos. 581 and 6003 which requires the inclusion of anti-corruption and governance education in the basic education and higher education curriculum, respectively, and both filed by CIBAC party-list Reps. Eduardo Villanueva and Domingo Rivera; Cavite Rep. Francis Abaya’s HB No. 967 which seeks to provide protection and benefits to persons who would report corrupt officials and would serve as witnesses for their prosecution; and HB No. 579 which seeks to create the National Independent Commission Against Corruption (NICAC) as an attached agency of the Office of the Ombudsman, also filed by Villanueva and Rivera.