Friday, February 7, 2014

Congress leaders push stronger, better coordination to ensure speedy passage of priority bills

MANILA-Congressional leaders have agreed to bolster coordination between the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to expedite the passage of a wide range of priority legislation and boost overall legislative performance, according to Senate President Franklin M. Drilon.

Drilon said he, together with Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, and Sen. Vicente Sotto, met with their counterparts in the House of Representatives led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales, and Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora on Thursday to discuss legislative goals of the 16th Congress.

At the meeting, the top solons also discussed ways to ensure the faster passage of bill throughout the rest of 16th Congress, as well as how to better resolve possible differences and incongruencies in the legislative process, which impede the prompt passage of crucial measures.

“Both chambers are aware of several pending measures that need urgent legislative action, and the failure of Congress to enact them promptly would be detrimental to the cause being advocated by the government and to the welfare and overall development of the nation and the Filipino people, who would primarily benefit from these measures,” said Drilon.

“Of particular importance to us is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. If we can have the administration bill by May, we aim to pass it by the end of this year so that we can submit it for ratification in early 2015,” Drilon added.

The Senate chief said that current legislative priorities can be grouped broadly into anti-corruption and pro-good governance measures, and legislation aimed at boosting the country’s socio-economic condition.

“We have a lot of promising pieces of legislation, which once passed, would promote heightened transparency and accountability in public office, and implement long-sought reforms in the delivery of justice,” said Drilon.

Among these, he said, are the amendments to the Sandiganbayan law, the Freedom of Information Act, Whistle Blowers Protection Act, and amendments to the Witness Protection Act.

“At the same time, we are looking at several measures aimed at ensuring better macroeconomic and fiscal sustainability, and at improving the country’s overall competitiveness and business climate,” he added.

These measures include, among others, the fiscal incentives rationalization, amendments to the Cabotage Law and Land Use Policy, amendments to the EPIRA, the consumer protection act, the promotion of micro-enterprise development institutions, and the Marina bill.

“We will also prioritize bills that will foster development of the nation’s status on social protection, education and health,” Drilon further said. Among such measures are bills on 13th month tax exemption, the implementation of a national student loan program, and required picture-based health warnings on cigarette products.

The Senate leader said the passage of these bills will be ensured by a “coordinated and synchronized legislative strategy” to be implemented by both chambers.

“We are determined to move fast towards the realization of our long-standing legislative commitments, and we are aware that this requires that legislative productivity be maximized,” pointed out Drilon.

“In my more than 15 years in this chamber, I am witness to plenty of occasions where a certain bill passes or receives greater legislative attention in one chamber, but languishes in obscurity or in deadlock within the other chamber. These must be now dutifully avoided, and both houses have pledged to do so,” he stressed.

Drilon said it would require tremendous coordination between the two chambers to ensure the speedy passage of bills and keep track of legislative activities at both houses, and to avoid unnecessary deadlock from occurring, the congressional leaders have agreed to meet regularly every month “to synchronize and integrate their legislative activities.”

He added that both houses “have agreed to allot the most judicious amount of time and resources for each important measure, so that every exerted effort is spent towards the bill’s passage.” 

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