Senate hopes to approve priority measures before 17th Congress adjourns

Published May 19, 2019, 2:21 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Hannah Torregoza 

The Senate is hoping to approve several priority measures before the 17th Congress formally adjourns sessions on June 7.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Vicente Sotto III
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said that the priority measures they want to finish include the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act.

The Senate will resume sessions on Monday, May 20, and will adjourn on June 7. Afterwards, lawmakers will convene on July 22, 2019 for the start of the 18th Congress.

“Unless some important bill escapes me, what I know is that one of the important bills that we have to approve is the anti-terrorism act,” Sotto said in a recent press conference at the Senate.

Sotto is referring to Senate Bill No. 2204, otherwise known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9372, or the Human Security Act by redefining the acts of terrorism that are punishable by law.

It was Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, who sponsored the bill.

The Senate will also try to finish deliberations on the bill amending the Public Services Act or Senate Bill No. 1754.

The bill primarily seeks to amend Commonwealth Act No. 146 in order to address the confusion in the definition of a public utility and public services.

Sotto said passage of the measure into law would provide Filipino consumers more choices, better and lower prices on utility services. The bill is currently pending on second reading.

“You have seen the problems that we have encountered not only with telcos (telecommunication), with the airlines, most especially water. All these fall under the category of the Public Services Act,” Sotto said.

“The amendments to the Public Services Act would address the issues on water, air transportation and power,” the Senate leader stressed.

Sotto also expressed hope that the Medical Scholarship Act, which he authored, would be given equal priority in the last three weeks before the Senate adjourns.

The measure is currently pending in the Senate committee on health and demography, chaired by Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito.

The bill seeks to address both issues of scarcity and misdistribution of physicians in the country through the granting of scholarships to deserving medical students provided that they would serve the country for five years.

“Napaka-kaunti ng duktor sa Pilipinas na nagpupunta sa mga barrio. Ang dahilan, mahal (We only have few doctors in the country that would go to far-flung villages),” Sotto noted.

“ Yan ang isa sa mga dahilan, so if ang pagdudoktor sa Pilipinas ay gagawin nating libre, both private and public medical schools, dadami ang duktor (That is one of the reasons, that’s why if we offer scholarships, both in private and public medical schools, we will have more doctors,)” ,” Sotto said.

Other priority measures the Senate is expected to tackle include the Budget Reform Act, Rightsizing the National Government Act, amendments to the Salary Standardization Law (SSL), the Reformation of Children in Conflict with the Law, which are all pending second reading.

Also pending on second reading is the measure seeking to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to address the country’s transportation woes, such as the proposed National Transport Act and the Traffic And Congestion Crisis Act.

Other priority measures of the Senate include the proposed Mindanao Railways Authority, the Unified Uniform Personnel Retirement Benefits and Pension Reform Act, and the Value for Money Procurement Act.