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House leaders defend performance of 17th Congress after a year

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House leaders defend performance of 17th Congress after a year

/ 07:03 PM July 17, 2017
The plenary hall of the House of Representatives

The plenary hall of the House of Representatives. (Photo from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Leaders in the House of Representatives on Monday defended the chamber’s legislative performance during the first regular session of the 17th Congress, which appeared to be not as productive as the previous two Congresses in terms of bills processed per day and laws enacted.

In a press conference, Deputy Speakers Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu and Fredenil Castro of Capiz and Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua said the statistics were not enough to prove that the current Congress was not as productive as its predecessors.

According to the latest statistical data covering the period July 25, 2016 to May 31, 2017, the House in its first regular session was able to process 1,247 measures in its 97 session days, for an average of 13 measures processed per day.

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During the first regular session of the 15th Congress from July 26, 2010 to June 8, 2011, the House processed 1,712 measures in its 73 session days, for an average of 23 measures processed per day, according to its performance report.

Meanwhile, during the first regular session of the 16th Congress from July 22, 2013 to June 11, 2014, the House processed 1,136 bills in its 69 session days, for an average of 16 measures processed per day, according to a separate performance report.

According to House leaders, the decreasing number of processed bills does not mean the House has not been as productive as its predecessors.

“Mahirap kasi if it will be on an apple-to-apple basis or one-to-one basis. You also have to look at the measures that will be passed. You also have to look which measures were of national significance, which measures were of local significance,” Garcia said.

Castro said the legislative statistics also did not show that there were bills transmitted to the Senate for deliberations after hurdling the third reading in the House.

One should also consider the bills pending at the bicameral conference, where both chambers of Congress thresh out and consolidate similar versions of a bil, and the approved pieces of legislation transmitted to the President for approval and eventual enactment to law, Castro added.

“The output of legislation in the 17th Congress should not only be gauged on the basis of the number of laws approved and became into law,” he said. “But you should also consider those that are pending in the Senate. You should also consider those that are pending signature with the President and those that are pending for bicameral conference between the Senate and the House of Representatives.”

There were also other “intervening factors,” such as the martial law discussions in Congress that affected the timeline of the House, Castro said.

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“In brief, I would say that you cannot gauge or you cannot rate the performance of the House of Representatives or the output of House of Representatives simply on the basis of the numbers of legislative measures passed, pending, and those that are supposed to be acted by the Senate and the House,” Castro said. “But you should approach it holistically, including intervening factors.”

Cua, who chairs the ways and means committee, said there seemed to be a “mismatch” of data, especially when asked about the productivity of the first regular session in the current Congress in terms of enacted laws.

READ: 17th Congress not as productive as predecessors in its first session

Of the over 5,800 bills lawmakers filed during the first regular session of the current Congress, only four were enacted into law – the 2017 national budget, the postponement of the barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan elections, and two franchise extensions.

In the session covering 2010 to 2011, the 15th Congress was able to pass eight laws – the 2011 budget, the GOCC Governance Act, Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act of. 2011, and the extension of the implementation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, to name a few.

In the session covering 2013 and 2014, the 16th Congress was able to pass eight laws – among these, the 2014 budget, a supplemental 2013 budget, an extension of the validity of the calamity fund and quick response fund, and the extension of the corporate life of Philippine National Railways.

According to Cua, the House can’t be judged for its output when it comes to enacted laws, especially because the Senate also has a hand in enacting laws.

“Parang may mismatch po yung inyong data na ibinabato niyo sa amin kasi ang rate, ang scorecard na ibinibigay mo is measures passed into law pero we’re only speaking of the House of Representatives. So we have no authority over the other chamber,” Cua said.

Garcia echoed Cua’s idea, saying the House could not be judged alone based on the enacted laws because the Senate was also part of the legislative mill.

“Ito lang siguro ang dapat nating maintindihan, na hindi lang naman House of Representatives ang nag-e-enact ng law eh. May Senate din,” he said. “Kaya we really cannot put a direct comparison because, again, balik tayo – changing times, changing realities, changing needs, changing compositions.”

The lawmakers disagreed, howeer, that the gridlock in the passage of laws was in the Senate, which has yet to approve bills already passed by the House, such as the reimposition of death penalty on drug offenses and the tax reform bill.

READ: House approves on final reading Duterte tax reform package

“We cannot second guess the Senate, and we cannot even cast judgment on the goings on or the operations of the Senate because they have also their own priorities,” Garcia said.

She denied that the leadership seeming focus on the restoration of death penalty on drug-related offenses, a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte, had affected the performance of Congress.

She said the third reading approval at the House of the death penalty bill only showed the greater sentiment of the public in fulfilling Duterte’s campaign promise to bring back capital punishment.

“If you ask whether the death penalty focus had taken us away from addressing other measures, I would say no,” Garcia said. “In fact, we would say that the passage of the death penalty bill in the plenary is another significant and major stride of the House of Representatives in supporting President Duterte’s campaign against drugs and in supporting the general sentiment of Filipinos.” /atm

READ: House approves death penalty bill with 217 yes votes

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TAGS: 17th Congress, Dakila Cua, Fredenil Castro, Gwendolyn Garcia, House of Representatives, legislative performance
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