MANILA -– The Senate on Wednesday adjourned sine die with 19 bills and 41 resolutions approved throughout the first regular session of the 16th Congress despite pork barrel controversy.
Senate President Franklin Drilon commended his colleagues for showing “a strong legislative performance which continues to improve even amid issues.”
“Despite the many concerns and challenges that the Senate as an institution had to face -– such as the pork barrel scam -– I believe the details of our work show that legislation remains the Chamber’s main focus, and that we are able to effectively deliver on our commitment to our citizenry and our nation,” he noted.
Drilon said the Senate had made exhaustive efforts to pass bills “that are of paramount interest and importance to our people.”
Out of the 19 measures, Drilon said five have been enacted into law including passing in record time of the 2014 General Appropriations Act.
”Ten more bills are presently waiting for the signature of the President. In the same period, the Senate approved eight bills on second and third reading and adopted 41 resolutions,” he said.
Drilon said that in several aspects, the legislative performance of the current senators had outpaced that of previous Congresses.
“We approved 15 bills on final reading when senators in the 15th Congress approved only nine bills within the same period of time,” he said.
The Senate also concurred in the ratification of three international treaties with Spain, the United Kingdom and India.
Drilon said senators focused on passing landmark bills on health, economy and government reforms such as the historic Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) or (Senate Bill Number 1733), and the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law (SBN 2138).
He said the disclosure of government actions under the FOI bill would be a “crucial and effective deterrent against possible malfeasance and corrupt practices by those in power.”
Once enacted into law, Drilon said the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law will address the increasing backlog of cases in court.
The Senate had also approved measures to boost the national economy and consumer welfare such as SBN 2046 or the “Go Negosyo Act” sponsored by Sen. Bam Aquino IV, which seeks to reduce poverty by developing micro, small and medium enterprises; and SBN 2159 or the “Liberalization of entry of foreign banks in the Philippines.”
Drilon also noted the passage of House Bill No. 353, which would require telecommunication companies to provide free alerts for mobile phone users in time of disasters, SBN 2043 or the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) bill, which seeks to consolidate the training and certification of Filipino seafarers under a single maritime administration; and SBN 1831 which aims to extend the service and corporate life of the Philippine National Railways for another 50 years.
Drilon said the Senate also approved landmark bills for the protection of public health such as the SBN 27 or the Graphic Health Warning Act; and SBN 2273, or the amendments to strengthen the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
He said other priority measures remain in the legislative agenda, and they “look forward to discussing and passing these proposed legislation.”
At present, some 19 committee reports on bills that are under plenary debate or period of amendments are pending.
“When we resume session, we will also work to increase the tax exemption ceiling of the 13th month pay, Christmas bonuses and other benefits from P30,000 to P75,000, so our humble workers can go home during the holidays without having to worry about decreases in their bonuses,” Drilon said.
The second regular session of the 16th Congress will resume on July 28.
“We also have in our sights other fiscal and financial pieces of legislation such as the Anti-Trust Bill, amendments to the Fiscal Incentives Rationalization Act, and reforms to the Cabotage Law. Similarly, we are going to study the possibility of creating a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and a fair competition act,” he said.
As agreed upon with the leadership of the House of Representatives, Drilon said they will “soon discuss the possibility of economic provisions to the Constitution to improve the country’s ability to invite foreign direct investment.
Drilon said the Senate will promptly act on legislating the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is integral to the peace process in Mindanao.
Other measures in the Senate’s priority list will be bills on education, mainly the “Iskolar ng Bayan Act,” and the ladderized and distant learning programs for higher education.