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Enrile pleased with Senate output as sessions adjourn for poll period

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile blows the candles on a cake given by Senate employees in advance of his birthday on February 14. ALLAN GOMEZ, INTERAKSYON.COM
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate’s performance in the 15th Congress, in terms of legislative output, the handling of crucial investigations and the historic impeachment trial of a Chief Justice, has gotten high marks from its chief, as sessions ended Wednesday to give way to the May elections.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said in an interview that all things considered, the Senate performed remarkably well even though the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona and controversial bills such as those on reproductive health and sin taxes sorely tested the mettle and patience of legislators.

“We have done the major legislations that we have to do now. We cannot do everything in one Congress,” Enrile said when asked if he is satisfied with the output of the Upper Chamber.

Despite wide differences of opinion, the Senate had struggled to find  common ground on various issues, including the controversial sin tax and RH bills, which were both passed by the 15th Congress after heated debates in and out of the session hall.

“We have differences of opinion. That’s common. In any parliament, there’s always a wrangling in any law-making body. I was talking to a Spanish writer last night and he was telling me about the problem of the famous leader of Europe. The European Union is having a problem also there. That’s a  natural occurrence,” he said.

Enrile added that some important pieces of legislation, including the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Law and a bill dividing the province of Camarines Sur, can still be tackled when Congress reconvenes in early June.

“The amendment to the Juvenile Justice Law is at the level of the bicameral conference committee. And Camsur was   approved on second reading last night. So, when we come back in June, we will enact it into law. Hindi na kasama sa 2013 election ‘yan, Enrile said.

Enrile explained that when a bill has been passed on second reading, it can still be approved on third and final reading even if there will only be two session days in June.

“Why not (passed in two days)? Even today, we can pass a bill on second reading. Kung natapos namin then it will become available for third reading when we open in June. That session is the end of the 15th Congress,” Enrile said.

The Senate will resume session on June 5 before it adjourns Sine Die on June 7.

Campaign period

Earlier, the Commission on Elections had set the campaign period for senatorial candidates and party-list groups from February 12 to May 11, 2013; and the campaign period for those running as congressmen and elective regional, provincial, city and municipal officials, from March 29 to May 11, 2013.

Of the 12 Senate seats that are up for grabs, six senators are vying for reelection. They are Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda, Aquilino Pimentel III and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Senators Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Panfilo Lacson, Kiko Pangilinan and Manny Villar who have served their second consecutive six-year terms, are barred from reelection.

The winning senatorial candidates will take their oaths before the Senate President when the Upper Chamber resumes the first regular session of the 16th Congress on July 22, 2013. They will then proceed to the House of Representatives for a joint session of Congress when the President delivers his State-of-the Nation Address.