Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a farewell speech before fellow legislators, cited the accomplishments of the House of Representatives during her term as the 17th Congress adjourned sine die Tuesday night.
In her speech, Arroyo also thanked her colleagues for their support to pass the legislative agenda of President Rodrigo Duterte.
But as Arroyo made her parting line, the incoming House was breathing fire with the 54-member Party-list Coalition maintaining its position to assert equal representation as that of district congressmen.
Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin, chairman emeritus of the coalition in the 17th Congress, said the group will support the Speaker “who can assure them of equal treatment and recognition.”
“If the party-lists, by law, are 20 percent of the composition of the House, we’re looking for 20 percent of the [committee] chairmanship[s],” Garin said.
“What is properly due to the coalition, that is what we are asking for. Equal treatment among parties including the party-list coalition,” she added.
Outgoing Minority Leader Danilo Suarez on Tuesday appealed to members of the incoming 18th Congress to vote for a Speaker who will not only support but ably push the legislative agenda of President Duterte.
Suarez, a senior member of Congress, supports incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, whom he said is the most qualified candidate for the speakership.
“Congressman Romualdez has a long track record of good leadership,” Suarez said at a news conference, even as the minority leader maintained that Romualdez has the edge over the other candidates for speaker.
Earlier, Suarez said a manifesto of support for Romualdez as speaker has reached the “magic number” of 153 signatories for him to win the Speakership race.
He said Tuesday he believed Romualdez would be able to maintain his number of supporters.
Arroyo said through their “tireless work and dedication, the 17th Congress has achieved genuine milestones that will benefit both the present and next generation of Filipinos.”
After she became a speaker on July 23, 2018, Arroyo said the House was able to pass 250 bills into law.
“Congratulations. These 250 new laws were among the 880 measures we approved, which in turn were among the almost 2,500 measures we processed. All these translate to our having processed 45 measures a day—a testament to the tough work ethic of the members of the House,” Arroyo said.
“The 880 measures we approved include all the bills highlighted by President Rodrigo Duterte in his 2018 State of the Nation Address. For early on, I defined our principal objective in no uncertain terms as to push for the legislative agenda of President Duterte. Our House focused on the passage of priority bills, especially those he highlighted in his 2018 SONA.
“In the President’s 2018 address, he asked for 48 hours to sign the Bangsamoro Organic Law after our approved version would have been transmitted to him. Our chamber ratified it the day after the SONA and sent it to him, who immediately signed it into law.”
On the security of work tenure, Arroyo said the President added his voice to those of the workers to pass legislation ending the Endo or the short term employment practice in the country.
“Last May 28, we passed the bill harmonized with the Senate version. It is now ready for signing into law,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo also pointed out that President Duterte urged Congress to convene the bicameral conference committee and pass at the soonest possible time the bill establishing the Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund. He subsequently vetoed the enrolled bill, but the House passed a new version on third and final reading last May 27.
Similarly, the President said that they in the Cabinet have approved for immediate endorsement to Congress the passage of a law creating the Department of Disaster Management. “We passed the bill on third and final reading on Oct. 1, 2018,” Arroyo said.
A law removing quotas on rice imports was also pushed through the legislative mill.
Arroyo also said it was during her watch as House speaker where the legislature fulfilled the President’s commitment to a comprehensive tax reform program.
“He urged Congress to pass Package 2, which our chamber passed on third and final reading as the Trabaho bill on Sept. 10, 2018,” Arroyo said.
Several tax measures which are needed to spur economic growth were also passed under the Arroyo-led House leadership.
“The President asked Congress to take seriously and pass the mining, alcohol, and tobacco tax increase, reform in property valuation, reform in capital income and financial taxes, and an amnesty program. Our chamber passed the mining tax on third and final reading on Oct. 8 last year and the alcohol tax on Dec. 3. Tonight, together with the Senate, we ratified the tobacco tax, and it is being ready for the President’s signature. Our chamber passed the reform in property valuation on Dec. 12, and the reform in capital income and financial taxes on Dec. 3. As for the amnesty program, the Senate worked with us to come out with an enrolled bill that the President signed into law on Valentine’s Day as well,” Arroyo said.
The Arroyo led House leadership also fulfilled President Duterte’s Universal Health Care Bill.
“We complied, and he signed it into law on Feb. 20, 2019. This notable bill ensures that all Filipinos will get the health care they need when they need it. This means that every Filipino will be enjoying their right to have health assistance by becoming part of the National Health Insurance Program. Forms of assistance include preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care for medical, dental, mental, and emergency health services,” Arroyo said.
Arroyo also said the House also played a significant role to look into the nitty-gritty of proposal to amend the 1987 Constitution to effect federalism of President Duterte.
“The President introduced a new fundamental law of the land. But since his Cabinet members opposed the draft prepared by the Consultative Committee, our chamber passed what we hope is a more fiscally acceptable version on Dec. 11, 2018,” Arroyo said.
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