Priority measures keep House busy
In viva-voce voting, the House on Dec. 4 approved on second reading a resolution, penned by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, that amends the 1987 Constitution to effect President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposed shift to a federal form of government. Resolution of Both Houses 15 (RBH 15), or the draft federal charter, was approved in plenary session with Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu as the presiding speaker. Speaker Arroyo has said she expects the house to pass the measure before Congress adjourns beginning December 15. She said RBH 15 went through rigorous debates and discussions. “It was part of the democratic process, there was a debate, it was voted on,” Arroyo said. Rep. Vicente Veloso of Leyte, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, told reporters the resolution will be transmitted to the Senate through the House’s Office of the Secretary-General. Veloso said he hopes the Senate will cooperate with the House in its efforts to rewrite the 1987 Constitution. Veloso said the amended RBH provides a “no term limit” provision, as he played down criticism that the proposed federal charter was railroaded through the House, saying lawmakers have been discussing the measure since 2017. RBH 15, which was already amended to return the vice president in the line of succession to the presidency, remains pending in the plenary as Congress, is scheduled to begin its Christmas break on Dec. 15. Veloso, a former Court of Appeals associate justice, had said many provisions of the 1987 Constitution “have already served, if not outlived, their purpose, hence, the sustained clamor over the years for amendments to or revision of the Constitution finds justification in the need to provide, among other much-needed. The House has just a few sessions days left when Congress resumes its sessions on January 14, 2019, as most lawmakers gear up for the midterm elections. Congress will adjourn on Feb. 9, 2019 to make way for the election campaign period up to the May 13, 2019 elections. It will again resume session on May 20 to wrap up its agenda towards its sine die adjournment on July 8, ushering in the new 18th Congress come July 2019. National budget Meanwhile, the House passed on third and final reading the proposed P3.757 trillion national budget for 2019. The House leadership said the 2019 budget prohibits “post-enactment interventions” and that congressmen identify specific projects for their constituents through specific agencies of government concerned. “These are not pork barrel allocations declared illegal by the Supreme Court. Ordinary citizens have the right to enjoy the fruits of projects funded by their taxes, regardless of their political affiliation,” House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, Jr. said.