Today News
A+ A A-

Speaker, Senate chief clash on priority bills

By Gerry Baldo and Angie M. Rosales

Leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate came to verbal blows yesterday over the performance of the two chambers of Congress as Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said it would help the administration if the Senate acts faster on priority bills while Senate President Pimentel said it’s the quality, not the quantity of measures that matters.
“Perhaps the Senate should act faster so that the measures that the President wants can be enacted into law,” Alvarez said.
“I am happy over the bills that we passed, although many of these bills passed have not been acted upon by the Senate. This is the reason these bills have not been signed into law. Very few have been signed into law, but we in the House had many bills passed,” Alvarez said in a television interview yesterday.
In the current session, the House has approved 354 bills on third and final reading.
Alvarez said he is content with the performance of the House of Representatives since its First Regular Session to date, giving it a rating of 8 out of 10.

“Perhaps, objectively, it’s an eight,” said Alvarez when asked to rate the performance of the House.
Official report of the measures passed by the House of Representatives since it opened its session on June 25, 2016 up to December 13, 2017 showed that some 6,911 bills and 1,517 resolutions were filed in the chamber.
Of this number, the House has processed a total of 2100 measures, 518 of which were approved, or an average of 14 measures processed per session day. Thirty nine were enacted into law, not including the 2018 budget and the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) that President Duterte signed last month.
Alvarez cited the free college education and expanded access to health care laws as the most significant measures the House has passed for the period.
Slow Senate — Speaker
Alvarez cited, for example, that the Death Penalty bill which the House passed in March 2017 remains pending in the Senate.
The restoration of the capital punishment is one of the key campaign promises of Duterte who vowed to crack down on crime and illegal drugs.
Alvarez added senators are more concerned over their political career with the possible dissolution of the Senate under a federal set up.
He told the senators that they should not worry because they could be eligible to run for election in the new legislature.
He also reminded the senators that the country had a unicameral system before in reaction to opposition of their Senate counterparts on the federalism.
He said senators could run for a different post under a unicameral government.
Alvarez, however, admitted that there could be some disagreements over the issue of voting jointly or separately in a constituent assembly, noting the 1987 Constitution is silent on this issue.
Personally, Alvarez said he believes the assembly should vote jointly.
Alvarez said convening Congress into a Con-Ass is top priority of House of Representatives.
“Number one is the convening of Congress into a Constituent Assembly and in revising the Constitution, a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government,” said Alvarez.
Alvarez believes this should not be a problem since Pimentel is an official of the PDP-Laban, which advocates federalism.
“I don’t see any reason why the Senate President will not be working on it also,” Alvarez said.
A thinking chamber — Koko
Pimentel, nonetheless, said that the Senate is meticulous in approving laws since the bills coming from the House all passed through thorough reviews.
“I have responded to that already by saying that the Senate is the ‘nag-aaral na kapulungan’ (thinking chamber),” Pimentel emphasized.
The Senate chief further stressed that there are more bills emanating from the lower house because “local bills” originate from the House of Representatives.
“All bills renaming and or merging schools, increasing hospital beds, etc, must and do come from the House. But we must all change our mindset - from quantity to ‘quality’,” he added.
“Let us not judge law making in terms of number of laws passed but in terms of how the laws we pass improve the quality of life on earth in general and the quality of life of Filipinos in particular. Again I say: change mindset. Quality not quantity,” said Pimentel.
Alvarez said he believes the House has done its job, which included investigations on alleged anomalies in government, including the alleged lopsided and illegal land deal between the Bureau of Corrections and the Tagum Agricultural Development, Co. Inc. (Tadeco ), and the alleged illegal use of P66.5 million in tobacco excise fund share of the Ilocos Norte Government.
He said these investigations were warranted because there are sufficient grounds to indicate irregularities and violations of the law.
“The question is: Was there irregularities and corruption in the Tadeco contract? Was there irregularity and illegality or not? Of course there were—and this was from the time of Marcos.
“In the case of Ilocos, was there illegality and irregularity? Of course there were. Millions were lost in that provvince. No accounting done. No records,” Alvarez pointed out.
He dismissed the allegations of respondents in these investigation of political motivation, saying these are mere diversionary tactics and do not address the real issues surrounding the alleged anomalous acts.
Alvarez said hearings on these alleged irregularities are about to be completed. In the case of the Ilocos Norte tobacco excise tax use, Alvarez said there is ground to file plunder charges against Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and other respondents.
As to the Tadeco land deal, Alvarez said that he has already filed graft charges against Davao Del Norte 2nd District Rep. Antonio Floirendo for violation of the law prohibiting incumbent lawmakers from having interests in contracts with the government.
Apart from these investigations, Alvarez also said that the House of Representatives performed its constitutional duty to hold top government officials accountable with the separate impeachment complaint against Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
A constitutional process
“About these impeachment cases. We do not want that but somebody filed. This is a constitutional process that we have to understand. When somebody files this and it is porperly endorsed, we have to process it. This is our mandate under the Constitution,” Alvarez said.
In the case of Bautista, the former Comelec chair resigned after the House plenary voted to impeach him. As for Sereno, Alvarez said the House Committee on Justice will continue to accept testimonies against the Chief Justice and could likely finish its job before Congress takes its break for the Holy Week.
“There are still many who want to testify. Let us give them a chance to to attend the hearings and testify on what knowledge they have,” Alvarez said. Earlier reports said a total of 10 SC justices are willing to testify against Sereno.
Alvarez encouraged Sereno anew to appear before the House Committee on Justice to defend herself, saying she can expect fair hearing from the House.
House zeroes in on shift
House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles reckoned that Congress’s hard work in 2017 has allowed it to take on its primary mission this 2018, which is to adopt a federal system of government.
“The primary mission for us lawmakers in the 17th Congress is to usher in a federalized Philippines in 2018,” Nograles said.
“Over 16 million Filipinos gave their stamp of approval to this endeavor when they elected President Rodrigo Duterte who has championed federalism since Day One,” Nograles stressed.
The Davao lawmaker said that in 2017, Congress had to tackle “necessary legislation” to effect positive change, such as the passing of the P3.767-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2018 and the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act or TRAIN. The two important measures were signed into law by Duterte last December 19.
On top of setting in motion all government functions next year, the 2018 GAA provides for the implementation of the free college tuition program under Republic Act (RA) 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act.
The TRAIN, on the other hand, bats for the inclusive growth among the poorer sectors and the middle class by effective a series of much-sought tax reforms, including lowered income tax rates for Filipinos.
“But now that we’re done with the GAA and TRAIN, our focus for the latter half of the 2nd regular session and beyond will be on switching from the current unitary system of government to a federal system,” Nograles said, adding that Duterte named it as a priority measure during last LEDAC-Execom meeting in August 2017.
The 1987 Constitution must first be opened up for amendments in order to allow for the establishment of autonomous federal states. These are Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, NCR/Metro Manila, Bicol, MIMAROPA, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Bangsamoro.
Duterte and House Speaker Alvarez favor the Con-Ass method in revising the existing Charter. Nograles agrees, calling it the most cost-efficient and practical method especially when compared to a Constitutional Convention (Con-Con).
“The Con-Ass is designed to maximize the output of legislators while focusing on a specific goal, which is to federalize the government,” Nograles said.
A Con-Con, which involves the election of delegates from all districts in the country, is expected to cost the government around P7 billion.
“Con-Con delegates will need to have their respective staff, which of course will have their own salary. The government will have to acquire a building for them so they could perform their task, which is to dissect the existing Constitution for the necessary changes,” he noted.
“The Con-Con delegates also won’t be time-bound, so the costs will definitely add up. This may end up hurting the other programs of the Duterte administration, especially its delivery of social services,” Nograles explained. Charlie V. Manalo

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.Basic HTML code is allowed.

Commentaries

A bunch of yellow hypocrites

24-02-2018 Ninez Cacho-Olivares

A bunch of yellow hypocrites

Minority senators, made up of Liberal Party members and...

Quit, polls or stick: future uncertain f…

24-02-2018 AFP and Tribune Wires

Quit, polls or stick: future uncertain for Israel’s Netanyahu

Jerusalem, Undefined — Resignation, early elections, or...

Time for truth

23-02-2018 Ninez Cacho-Olivares

Time for truth

  Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno can’t get away with it ...

Who are the #NeverAgain kids pushing for…

23-02-2018 AFP and Tribune Wires

Who are the #NeverAgain kids pushing for US gun control?

Miami, United States — They survived the Parkland schoo...

Drop the press freedom angle

22-02-2018 Ninez Cacho-Olivares

Drop the press freedom angle

Let me put it this way: Neither the Securities and Exch...

Under bombs, Syria rebels cling on in Ea…

22-02-2018 AFP and Tribune Wires

Under bombs, Syria rebels cling on in Eastern Ghouta — for now

Beirut, Lebanon — Despite a crippling siege, infighting...

Headlines

Headlines

Nation

Metro

Sports

Life Style

Etcetera

Motoring

business

Unit 102, 1020 Bel-Air apartment, Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila Copyright 2000-2017 All rights reserved, The Daily Tribune Publishing Inc.