House priorities: Bills on same-sex civil unions, charter change

MANILA, Philippines – The top priorities of the House of Representatives when the 17th Congress reopens session on July 25 will include bills on charter change and same-sex civil union as well as the approval of the 2018 national budget.

Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia outlined the lower chamber's main agenda for the rest of the year in a press conference on Monday, July 17. 

She said that first on their list of priorities is the approval of the P3.78-trillion budget for 2018. Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the proposed budget will be transmitted to the House before President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2nd State of the Nation Address on July 24. 

“This is very crucial as the Duterte administration embarks on the most massive infrastructure program. As you know the motto has been “Build, Build, Build,” and such a massive infrastructure undertaking will need the support of a budget that will support all of these infrastructure that will be built throughout the entire country,” said Garcia. (READ: For Dutertenomics to work, the President has to take charge)

The lawmaker said that the House will also prioritize the approval of the proposed supplemental budget for the rehabilitation of Marawi City, where government troops clashed with the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group starting May 23. This is what prompted Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao. 

The House is also set to to prioritize the approval of the bill legalizing same-sex civil unions in the Philippines. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said in October 2016 that he wants to file the said measure. 

“We have to address this. This is changing reality and has become a growing necessity. And this is to promote civil and human rights for same-sex couples. And even heterosexual couples who want to live together but are not ready to marry, and this they can do through a civil union,” said Garcia.

“The civil union bill will also govern property rights, custodial rights over children and adoption rights,” she added. 

Senate move

On charter change, Garcia said the House leadership is hoping that the Senate will finally put the switch to federalism among their priorities in the coming months.  

Under federalism, the country will be divided in autonomous states that are primarily responsible for their own laws, finances development, infrastructure, education, and culture. The national government will only be left to deal with matters of nationwide bearing, like foreign policy and national security. 

The House committee on constitutional amendments has already approved the measure calling for both houses of Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution. The bill is set to be put on 2nd reading at the plenary.

“We hope that the Senate will be acting on a similar measure so that we may finally tackle a growing sentiment amongst so many Filipinos for the need of chartercChange in order to adopt the changing realities and needs of our times,” said Garcia.  

Federalism was among the campaign promises of Duterte, arguing it would decentralize power and wealth away from “Imperial Manila” and further empower the rest of the regions. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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