MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has insisted that the House of Representatives has delivered on its promise and commitment to pass significant and important bills as its first regular session comes to a close.
According to Cayetano, the 18th Congress was able to enact 11 bills, five of which were included as priority bills by President Rodrigo Duterte after his State of the Nation Address (Sona) in 2019, plus the controversial Anti-Terrorism Law which amends the Human Security Act of 2007.
The laws that were enacted, Cayetano said on Thursday, including the following:
• Postponement of the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections
• Establishment of Malasakit Centers
• Increasing and Restructuring the Excise Tax Rates on Alcohol, Heated Tobacco, and Vapor Products
• Creation of the National Academy of Sports
• The Salary Standardization Law of 2019 which increased the salary of teachers and nurses
Meanwhile, other priority measures have been approved on the third and final reading, such as:
• Major tax reform measures such as the Corporate Income Tax & Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA)
• Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA)
• Real Property Valuation and Assessment Act
• Creation of the Department of Filipinos Overseas and Foreign Employment.
Cayetano made this list of achievements after the House of Representatives came under fire, as 70 members of the House committee on legislative franchises voted in favor of a report denying ABS-CBN its new franchise.
Lawmakers who voted for the junking of ABS-CBN’s franchise bid were ridiculed on social media — with some of the solons’ children even voicing disappointment over their parents’ stand.
But for Cayetano, the deliberation of the ABS-CBN franchise would mean the House can fully shift its attention towards the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After the successful deliberation of ABS-CBN Corporation’s application for a franchise renewal, the 18th Congress is now, more than ever, empowered and driven to work on essential legislation that will further address the negative impact of COVID-19,” Cayetano said.
“We will not let the momentum we gained from here and the First Regular Session be drowned by irrelevant issues and unimportant matters. Our focus right now is to continue being a relevant, responsive, and reliable House of the People by addressing their needs and providing solutions to their problems,” he added.
Cayetano and other lawmakers have been criticized for allegedly not doing their jobs properly, from various activist groups to members of the opposition.
Recently, Vice President Leni Robredo called out the House for discussing trivial matters when it could have prioritized the increase of health workers’ salaries and benefits, as they are at the fight against COVID-19. This prompted Cayetano to reply that the House was not sleeping on its job.
Cayetano asked Robredo and eventually Senator Grace Poe to relax as both claimed the House’s refusal to give ABS-CBN a new 25-year franchise would create a chilling effect.
The Speaker noted that the various other measures were enacted — including the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act used for the government’s COVID-19 response — while 250 bills were passed on third reading and 32 bills on second reading since the session opened. [ac]