Senate off to month-long Holiday break

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    THE Senate on Wednesday night adjourned its session to go on a one-month legislative break during the holidays. Regular sessions will resume on January 20, 2020, Monday.

    Senate majority leader Juan Miguel Zubiri bragged of the chamber’s major accomplishments in the first four months of the 18th Congress, topped by the on-time ratification of the proposed P4.1-trillion 2020 national budget which was adopted on December 11.

    “We opened the First Regular Session of the 18th Congress with a new batch of senators raring and eager to buckle down to work, and I am happy to note that we were able to file a record number of bills and resolutions, foremost of which is the P4.1-trillion 2020 budget,” Zubiri said.

    “The budget is the most important law of the land. By approving it well ahead of the Christmas break, we will be spared the difficulties arising from a re-enacted budget as had happened earlier this year. The re-enacted budget delayed projects and, worse, delayed salaries of national and LGU employees for the first quarter of 2019,” he added.

    A total of 1,154 bills and 210 resolutions were filed since the start of the 18th Congress on July 22.

    First in the Senate report card was the enactment of Republic Act No. 11462, principally sponsored by Sen. Imee Marcos, which moved to December 5, 2022 the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

    Next on the list is Sen. Christopher Go’s Malasakit Center Act (by RA 11463) that establishes Malasakit centers in all government-owned hospitals, of which 54 have already been established.

    Malasakit centers are one-stop shops for medical and financial assistance where patients or their relatives can seek help from representatives from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

    Zubiri said the Senate also passed the following measures on third and final reading: the National Day of Remembrance for Road Crash Victims Act (SBN-1122), the Night Shift Differential Pay (SBN 643), the National Transportation Safety Board Act (SBN 1077), the measure fixing the validity period of licenses to own, permits to carry and registrations of firearms (SBN 1155), the Salary Standardization law 5 (SBN 1219), establishment of separate facilities for prisoners convicted of heinous crimes (SBN 1055), and the bill amending the National Internal Revenue Code by increasing the excise tax on alcohol, heated tobacco and vapor products and for other purposes (SBN 1074), among others.

    Also approved by the Senate was House Bill No. 5437 extending the availability of the 2019 appropriations for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlays (CO).

    The chamber likewise adopted 21 resolutions, noteworthy of which was Adopted Resolution No. 22 expressing the sense of the Senate opposing the liberalization of the sugar industry to protect the livelihood of millions of sugar workers and agrarian reform beneficiaries, SRN 18 recognizing the 70th anniversary of the Philippines and Republic of Korea relations, and SRN 8 reconstituting the special committee on Marawi City rehabilitation.