Priority measures keep House busy

Racing against time, the House of Representatives has approved several bills listed as priority measures of the Duterte administration – top billed by Charter change toward federalism and the 2019 national budget.

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.

As far as the House leadership is concerned, they have approved a constitutionally-compliant budget measure.

“As long as the funds are dedicated to a specific purpose, do not require post enactment measures, and are participated in by the Congress as a legislative body, and not by individual members, then it can be allowed,” Andaya said.

“What the Supreme Court prohibits is encroachment of Executive Power (as post-enactment measures are part of executive functions) and non-delegability of legislative powers since the determination of purpose by the individual members can be considered as a delegation of rule-making powers,” the majority leader added.

Bills passed

In the first 25 session days under Arroyo’s watch, the House tackled 778 measures or an average of 31 measures a day.

This means that in only 25 session days, Arroyo was able to accomplish 21 percent of the total 3,707 measures or output of the 17th Congress that opened on July 25, 2016.

Most of the measures tackled are on the legislative agenda of Duterte as Arroyo made true her word that she will endeavor to push the measures backed by the President.

During her watch, Arroyo attended committee hearings and plenary sessions to ensure that vital socio-economic measures are deliberated upon and approved on schedule.

House leaders have credited this accomplishment of the Arroyo-led House to her hard work and dedication, given her track record as former President and economist and a known workaholic.

Majority Leader Andaya said Arroyo influenced the process of passing or moving the bill through the House by constantly prodding legislators to avoid delays.

“She even attends committee deliberations just to make sure that the proceedings are on tract and unnecessary delays are avoided,” Andaya said.

Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, a known Arroyo ally, also shared kind words about the Speaker.

“With GMA as Speaker, 24 hours in a day are not enough for the House to do the tasks she imposes on everyone including herself,” Suarez said.

Former Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said Arroyo will be “a tough act to follow for any Speaker in the future.”

Topics: House of Representatives , 2019 national budget , Rodrigo Duterte , Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
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