MANILA, Philippines – On its first regular session in the 17th Congress, the House of Representatives will be remembered for steering the approval of two controversial bills – death and taxes.
In March, it approved on third and final reading the bill restoring the death penalty for drug-related offenses.
On May 3, the last day of session, it gave the tax reform package called the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), an overwhelming vote, sending it to the Senate for deliberation.
In between making laws, congressmen also conducted inquiries, including one that ran like a serial television drama: The investigation on the alleged drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) during the previous administration, not only seeing notorious drug lords serving sentence testifying in the hearings, but also a former aide and lover of the ten secretary of justice who has since been elected senator, telling the nation about their romance and their alleged dealings with drug money.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas proved not the type of leaders who only stay in office. They showed up in several congressional hearings and hounded the witnesses with their interrogations.
In his speech on Wednesday’s sine die adjournment, Alvarez said the 292-member chamber can proudly say to the people that they passed laws that “will address these problems they face every day.”
“Within just one year from being convened last July 2016, and despite one of the most divisive and partisan elections to date, we can proudly tell the Filipino people that we have delivered legislation that will affect their daily lives in a positive way,” Alvarez said.
“Let what we have accomplished remind us that we have the power to determine the frontiers of what is possible, that we can exercise the virtue of resilience and embody the value of hard work, as we forge forward,” he added.
The Speaker also rallied the House members to support government troops fighting the terrorist enemies in the Mindanao region.
“We have to do our part in sharing the heavy burden of what happened in Marawi City,” he said, adding that the House has taken the initiative to create a trust fund to aid the people of Marawi.
“This will be our concerted answer to the challenge that extremists present. They seek to sow terror, but we will show them our courageous resolve. They seek to destroy, but we shall defend and rebuild,” he said.
Among the stated accomplishments of the House in legislation are the following:
*Ratification of the amendment to the Passport Act, which extends the validity of passports to 10 years.
*Ratification of the committee report on extending the validity if driver’s license to five years.
*Approval on third and final reading of the proposed Act strengthening the protection for Filipinos who are in need of emergency health care service.
*Review and update of the Revised Penal Code.
*Approval on third and final reading of the bill amending the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) to include the casino sector under its coverage.
*Ratification of the bill on free internet in public spaces.
*Ratification of the free college education bill.
Congress is to convene anew on July 24, at 10 a.m. to open the second regular session, and in the afternoon, in joint session for the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).