18th Congress worth the praise?


    WHILE everybody is busy keeping track of the 2019 Coronavirus Disease, and while Congress is in recess, the House of Representatives took the opportunity to report to the Filipino people about its accomplishments in the past 54 days of session of the 18th Congress. Before the House went on seven weeks of Lenten break together with the Senate, the House passed a total of 179 measures on third and final reading, seven of which have been signed into law by President Duterte.

    The report was made by House Majority Leader and Leyte 1st district Rep. Martin Romualdez, who disclosed that the House processed a total of 1,279 measures from July 1, 2019 to March 11, 2020 or an average of 24 measures per day. He noted that during the 54 session days from July 1, 2019 to March 11, 2020, the Lower Chamber received a total of 7,421 measures and 298 committee reports. Of these, 6,590 were bills and 831 were resolutions.

    Seven measures completed and signed into law following two months of legislative work by the House are a feat worthy of mention, and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Romualdez and the rest may be cited for their work, especially when they list down what these seven Republic Acts are. The seven legislative enactments are RA 11462 or Postponing the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections and resetting these twin polls to December 5, 2022; RA 11463 or Establishing Malasakit Centers in all hospitals of the Department of Health; RA 11464 or Extending the Availability of the 2019 Appropriations to December 31, 2020 to ensure the continuity of government’s priority infrastructure projects; RA 11465 or the P4.1 trillion national budget for the year 2020, RA 11466 or the Salary Standardization Law 5; RA 11467 or the Sin Tax Law that imposes additional excise taxes on alcohol, heated tobacco products (HTPs) and vape products and RA 114668 or Designating the Third Sunday of November as the National Day for Road Crash Victims, Survivors and their Families.

    While these laws are important and some are even lifechanging, it looks like Romualdez, chairman of the House Committee on Rules, was overly generous in praising his Speaker and colleagues in the House for these achievements, thanking them for their “admirable worth ethic” and “for a job well done.”

    Romualdez said: “Let me commend my colleagues in the 18th Congress for a job well done. We could not have performed such an unprecedented feat without the help of each and every member of the House of Representatives.

    The work ethic of this Congress is truly admirable. Under the leadership of Speaker Cayetano, your Representatives performed beyond the call of duty to help President Rodrigo Duterte fulfill his promise to our people.”

    The congressman from Leyte, who is also the president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) party and also the president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), cited the chamber’s unprecedented 63-percent public satisfaction rating in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey. “Not only did our leader, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, get the highest increase among government officials. The House of Representatives has finally regained the public and now ranks as one of the most satisfactory government institutions,” he said, citing the 63-percent public satisfaction rating received by the House in a recent survey.

    Compared to the 17th Congress, the current one may be considered as very efficient. Romualdez noted that only 18 measures were passed in the 17th Congress from July 25, 2016 to December 15, 2016. Reckoning the number of measures processed, the present Congress registered a jump of more than 417 percent compared to the same period in the previous 17th Congress, he said.

    Romualdez should be reminded, though, not to be lavish with his praise on this Congress because internal politics in the House and the concomitant replacement of two important committee chairmanships (Appropriations and HRET) especially the Committee on Appropriations delayed by at least one month the allocation of supplemental budget for the Department of Health which will be used in fighting the onslaught of the COVID-19. Perhaps the House was too busy debating whether or not to renew the television franchise of ABS-CBN?