A year after President Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address outlining his legislative priorities, Congress had responded by passing 10 bills and enacting five into law.
One of them established the Malasakit Centers in all Department of Health hospitals providing the people, particularly the poor, a one-stop shop for their health requirements; another bill which was widely welcomed by government employees, modified the salary standards for civilian government personnel; and another established a National Academy of
The two others were on a tax measure and the fifth postponed the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
The House records show that the five SONA measures that were passed by the Lower Chamber that have been enacted into law are the following:
- Republic Act No. 11467, which seeks to increase and restructure the excise tax rates on alcohol, heated tobacco, and vapor products, signed on January 22, 2020.
- Republic Act No. 11462, postponing the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, signed on December 2, 2019
- Republic Act No. 11463, establishing Malasakit Centers in all Department of Health (DOH) hospitals in the country and in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), signed on December 3, 2019.
- Republic Act No. 11466, modifying the salary schedule for civilian government personnel and authorizing the grant of additional benefits, signed on January 8, 2020.
- Republic Act No. 11470, creating and establishing the National Academy of Sports, signed into law on June 9, 2020.
“The House’s performance during the first regular session exceeds its average historical performance, in my view, especially on fiscal and economic reform,” said Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means and co-chairman of Economic Cluster of the House Defeat COVID-19 Adhoc Committee (DCC).
Aside from the priority bills, the House passed three bills into law in the 18th Congress. These are Republic Act No. 11469 or “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act” signed on March 24,2020; Republic Act No. 11479 or the controversial “Anti-Terrorism Act” signed on July 3, 2020; and Republic Act No. 11480, which empowers the President to set a different date for the start of the school year during a state of emergency or state of calamity, signed on July 17.
“But there are only so many bills that the House can take up at any given time. We have already done marathon hearings, and this House has been among the most productive in history. We have done our best to pass the major tax and economic reforms, but those bills, as you know, take plenty of stakeholder consultation and study time.”
He stressed that the country’s priorities also evolve as the nation needs to evolve, prodding the House of Representatives to make COVID-19 response measures as its “main priority.”
“It took away legislative time from many of the SONA priorities, but it is
the pressing need of the day, so we must do it above all else. It’s not about how many bills in the SONA were passed. Clearly, some bills are more important and more impactful than others. The question is, did we pass the most important bills, and based on what we have accomplished this session, the answer is yes, we did,” Salceda explained.
He said as a good soldier to his commander-in-chief, the House passed all the tax reform measures requested by President Duterte.
“The House’s performance during the first regular session exceeds its average historical performance, in my view, especially on fiscal and economic reform,” Salceda cited.
Salceda is the principal proponent of Republic Act No. 11467.
Based on the House Committee on Rules report on the status of the 23 SONA priority measures, the House already passed on third and final reading the proposed Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act (PIFITA), the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), initially dubbed as the TRABAHO bill, and eventually evolved into Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act (CITIRA); the proposed Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act, and the proposed Public Service Act.
Apart from these economic measures, the bill creating the Department of Filipino Overseas and Foreign Employment (DFO) was passed by the House.
All these five measures were transmitted to the Senate for its action.
Muntinlupa lone District Rep. Rozzano “Ruffy” Blazon, who belongs to the House majority, agreed with Salceda, saying that the low percentage on the passage of the SONA bill cannot be interpreted as the chamber’s weak
support to Duterte.
“It’s quite obvious that the House as a whole is supporting the President all the way, considering how it passed the Bayanihan Heal as One Act and the Anti-Terrorism Law,” he said.
“The low percentage on the passage of the SONA priorities passing into law may be attributed to the bicameral legislative process itself, the commitment of the legislators to those particular priorities, an unenthusiastic lobbying from the Executive brach or other factors such as more urgent matters that the legislative branch took up,” he said.
According to the House records, five of 19 bills that have been enacted into law from July 22, 2019 to July 16, 2020 or during the first regular session of the 18th Congress are SONA priority measures.
House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez, chairman of the House Committee on Rules, noted they have surpassed the performance of their predecessors in the 17th Congress in terms of productivity and number of legislative measures approved before the June 5 sine die adjournment.
“A total of 19 bills approved by the House of Representatives in the first Regular Session of the 18th Congress had been enacted into law compared to five measures approved by our predecessors,” he said, describing it as 34 percent improvement from the previous Congress.
According to him, 13 more, including three national bills and 10 local bills, are awaiting signature from the President.
Quoting the report from the House Secretariat, he said from July 22, 2019 to July 16, 2020 or during the first regular session of the 18th Congress, the 302-man House of Representatives processed a total of 1,630 legislative measures in 69 session days, or a 31 percent improvement from the previous Congress.