Congress to meet on pending billsBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Congress is identifying pending bills that both the Senate and the House of Representatives can pass during the nine session days remaining before the start of the campaign period for the May elections.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said House leaders intended to meet with Senate counterparts a week before the Jan. 21 resumption of their sessions to discuss what both chambers could pass in the limited time they have.
Congress will adjourn on Feb. 8. Its next session day will be in June, but it is only expected to meet for one day to formally adjourn the 15th Congress.
Belmonte said it would be useless for the House to pass bills if the Senate would be unable to tackle and approve the counterpart measures in its chamber.
“We want to know what can be done… otherwise what’s the use of passing it?” Belmonte told reporters.
Earlier, he said he would see if pending measures in the House, such as the freedom of information bill and the antitrust bill, could still be tackled in the remaining days of Congress.
The FOI bill has not been sponsored in the plenary and it is expected to be hounded by debates because of proposals to insert a controversial right of reply provision and to expand its coverage to include transparency in the private sector.
Aside from the debates, the period of amendments could also take some time because of these issues.
The FOI measure, whose passage was promised by President Aquino during the 2010 campaign, has not been certified by the latter as urgent. It is intended to pave the way for greater transparency in government transactions.
The antitrust bill, which Belmonte supports, is in the period of debates and amendments. It seeks to penalize anticompetitive agreements and mergers.
The measure was actually approved on second reading on Aug. 8 last year but this was retracted after several lawmakers appealed and said they wanted to propound more questions and introduce more amendments.
Since 2010, the 15th Congress has approved 2,579 measures, and 209 have been enacted into law, including the reproductive health bill and the sin tax bill.