MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The 17th Congress bade 2016 goodbye, with two bills passed into law.
Before Congress adjourned on Wednesday, the only measure signed into law this year is the law postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections from October 31, 2016, to October 21, 2017 or Republic Act 10923.
On Thursday, December 22, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 10924 or the 2017 General Appopriations Act, amounting to P3.35 trillion.
The House of Representatives and the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the 2017 budget on December 13 and December 14, respectively.
The two chamber had conflicting views on the “pork-like” P8.3 billion inserted in the Department of Public Works and Highway budget.Senator Panfilo Lacson argued that the amount – originally meant for infrastructure projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – violated of Republic Act 9054 or the Organic Law of ARMM.
The House eventually gave in to avoid a gridlock. The funds were transferred to the Commission on Higher Education for the free tuition fees in state universities and colleges.
During the first 6 months of the congress under former president Benigno Aquino III, only one law was approved – the 2011 General Appropriations Act or RA 10147.
Lawmakers, with a vote of 176-30-3, approved the bill seeking to remove the uniform excise tax structure on cigarettes, a measure passed during the Aquino administration.
The other measures approved on 3rd and final reading on the last week of session are mostly local bills, among them:
- HB Number 64: An act strengthening compliance with occupational safety and health standards and providing penalties for violations thereof
- HB Number 400: An act establishing a national high school in Barangay Pasong Tamo, Quezon City, Metro Manila, to be known as Emilio Jacinto National High School and appropriating funds therefor
- HB Number 938: An act dividing Barangay Tangos in the city of Navotas into two distinct and independent barangays to be known as Barangays Tangos North and Tangos South
- HB Number 4469: An act separating the Tublay School of Home Industries Extension in Barangay Tublay Central, Municipality of Tublay, Province of Benguet from the Tublay School of Home Industries Main, converting it into an independent national high school to be known as Tublay National Trade High School and appropriating funds therefor
- HB Number 4524: An act converting the San Rafael National High School in the city of Navotas into a national technical-vocational high school to be known as San Rafael Technological and Vocational High School and appropriating funds therefor
- HB Number 4597: An act establishing a national high school in Barangay Concepcion Dos in the second district, city of Marikina to be known as SSS National High School and appropriating funds therefor
- HB Number 4598: An act establishing a national technical-vocational high school in Barangay Nasisi, City of Ligao, province of Albay to be known as Ligao City National Technical-Vocational High School and appropriating funds therefor
- HB Number 4599: An act establishing a national high school in the city of Pagadian, province of Zamboanga del Sur to be known as Pagadian City Science High School and appropriating funds therefor
The year 2016 has been a significant time for the Senate, as it celebrated its centennial year. With the new faces that entered the chamber comes new challenges, including the highly-publicized feud between Senator Leila de Lima and her number one accuser, President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: De Lima files petition vs Duterte at Supreme Court)
In terms of legislation, the bill seeking to grant emergency powers to Duterte to address traffic woes in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu was sent to plenary on the last day.
The chamber also rushed the adoption of the resolution seeking the immediate release of the first tranche of the P1,000-pension hike for Social Security System members. Despite this, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the accompanying law still has to ba passed in 2017.
The Senate also concurred with the ratification of the Articles of Agreement of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said would give the government “access to more sources of funding so we can usher in a golden age of infrastructure for the Philippines.”
Next year, the 17th Congress is set to focus on other priority measures of the Duterte administration.
These include the reimposing the death penalty, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility, amending the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for federalism, and the granting of emergency powers to the President to address the traffic crisis.
Also in the President’s legislative wishlist are the bills ending job contractualization, reforming personal income tax, and amending the Anti-Money Laundering Act, among other measures.
Sessions in both houses are set to resume on January 16. – Rappler.com