With 9 session days left, what can Congress accomplish?
MANILA, Philippines (Updated) - Coming from a banner year, what measures will lawmakers manage to pass with only 9 session days left before Congress takes a break for the campaign season?
Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte told reporters Tuesday, January 8, that he will meet with Senate leaders a week before lawmakers report back to work on January 21 to identify pending bills that will be prioritized for the last 3 weeks of session.
“We should make this our cue to remain focused on our goals and continue to remain in sync – with one another as legislators and with our people and their priorities," Belmonte said in a statement.
With almost 70 percent of representatives seeking re-election, it would be tough to muster a quorum. But Belmonte remained confident that they will meet their "targets" as solons have also "worked under tremendous time limitations in the past and have still managed to make significant gains."
Belmonte earlier appealed to his colleagues' "sense of patriotism" and urged them to show up in session.
Belmonte earlier said that the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and the Anti-Trust measure will be among House's priority.
The Senate has already passed its version of the FOI bill -- which seeks to establish fast procedures in obtaining documents of high public interest -- but it has yet to be sponsored on the floor in the House.
Other pending measures include the Martial Law victims compensation bill -- one of the 6 measures at the bicameral deliberation stage -- and the Anti-Money Laundering Act, which is awaiting House ratification.
The Anti-Trust bill -- which strengthens the prohibition against monopolies, cartels and other anticompetitive practices -- is nearing a second reading vote. It had already been approved on second reading in August 2011 but lawmakers who wanted to introduce further amendments retracted the approval.
There are 13 ratified bicameral conference committee reports awaiting enrollment before the President signs them into law, according to records from the House secretariat.
Of the 4,038 measures processed by the House from July 26, 2010 to December 2012, a total of 2,579 bills were passed and some 207 became laws.
'Not giving up on FOI'
One of the co-authors of the FOI bill, Ifugao Rep Teddy Baguilat, said the passage of the FOI bill will cap the achievements of the 15th Congress, which managed to pass historic measures on sin tax and reproductive health.
“If the FOI will not pass, then it will seem that Congress is afraid of transparency and accountability, which are the hallmarks of the Aquino administration,” said Baguilat, a member of the Liberal Party.
Malacañang, meanwhile, would like to see debates move in the House first. - Rappler.com