House vows to pass more priority bills amid Sereno impeachment hearings
The House of Representatives resumed session on Monday with a promise from its leadership that they would pass six more priority bills even while it proceeds to hear the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
With 232 lawmakers present, Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro banged the gavel at exactly 4 p.m., signaling the resumption of session.
The Congress was supposed to resume session on November 13 after taking a Halloween break but it was prolonged until November 20 due to the country’s hosting of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit last week.
In a press conference before the session, House Deputy Speakers Sharon Garin assured that Congress would remain focused on its legislative priorities and not be distracted by the hearings on Sereno’s impeachment.
“I am very confident that business will still go on here in Congress despite the impeachment proceedings going on in the committee on justice,” Garin said.
Seven of the nine priority House bills have already been approved since the start of the second regular session of the 17th Congress.
The seven priority bills approved on third and final reading by the House are the: Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (HB 5636); Utilization of the Coconut Levy Fund (HB 7545); United National (ID) Identification System Act (HB 6621); Strengthening the Balik-Scientist Program (HB 65792); Occupational Safety and Health Standards Compliance Act (HB 64); Enhanced Universal Health Care Act (HB 5784); and Amendments to the Public Service Act.
“These were approved despite the fact that we were busy with the (national) budget. Right now, we still have 21 more priority bills which were agreed upon during the periodic House-Senate Leadership Meet held last October 4, 2017 to identify six measures that we would try to pass before the end of the year,” said Garin.
Garin identified the six bills in the House-Senate Common Legislative Priorities as the following: Free School Feeding Act; Expanded Local Absentee Voting Act; Estate Tax Reform Act; One Town, One Doctor Act; Amendments to Anti-Hazing Law; and Department of Disaster Response Act.
Out of these list of priority measures, she said the House already approved three bills on third and final reading: Free School Feeding Act (HB 5269, approved on May 2, 2017); Expanded Local Absentee Voting Act (HB 5661, approved on May 29, 2017); and Estate Tax Reform Act (HBs 4815 and 4814 approved on May 29, 2017).
Garcia and Garin said the House leadership would exert all efforts to pass the pending measures within the four weeks of session days before Congress adjourns anew for the Christmas break. /kga
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