MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said lawmakers “did their job” of legislating measures that “provide our people with better chances” and rolled out bills that they plan to push in the second regular session of the 17th Congress.
Among the bills on the plate, he disclosed, are the 2018 budget, several transportation-related measures, the Bangsamoro Basic bill, revision of the Constitution, and the civil union and dissolution of marriage bills, as cited in his speech Monday.
A total of 264 lawmakers out of the 293 House members attended the opening of the session. It was adjourned at 11:30 a.m. and will convene anew later, this time with the Senate, at 4 p.m. for the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA).
“Our concrete efforts to provide our people with better chances at life is undeniable,” he said, as he underscored the House had approved on third reading a total of 210 measures over 97 sessions days during its first year.
“While variables beyond our control have marked our first session with unprecedented challenges, we did not waver or falter. We did our job,” he said.
Alvarez said he wanted to be remembered as “the Speaker of the people who listened to – and acted upon – the often unheard cries and complaints of the marginalized and voiceless members of our society.”
Among the bills the House has approved on third reading and pending with the Senate were the death penalty bill, the tax reform measure and the proposed free irrigation act.
Several bills are also now submitted to the President for his signature, such as the free wifi in public places, free tertiary education bill, amendments to the Revised Penal Code, and the strengthened emergency health care services for indigent patients.
Alvarez also vowed to push for bills addressing the concerns of the family, such as the civil union bill and the dissolution of marriage bill.
“Admittedly, there is a sad reality about some marriages. We do not always get it right the first time around. Unfortunately, the present system practically coerces married persons to remain with each other even if the relationship is beyond repair and has caused, and continues to cause, harm to the well-being of the husband, the wife and, worse, the children involved. We have to change this,” he said.
Citing the “chaotic” regulatory framework, which he added were full of overlaps and conflicts of interest, he said Congress will also propose for the regulation of the franchises of casinos.
“Let’s start off with PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation). It does not make sense for it to regulate and operate. An entity that has this power runs the risk of dealing itself a favorable hand while undercutting others,” he said.
The Speaker also pitched for the merging of the Land Transportation Office and the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board into the Land Transportation Authority. There should also be the Philippine Railways Authority, which will regulate the country’s railways
Alvarez said Congress will likewise look into the creation of the Philippine Airports Authority to harmonize the rules and regulations for all the country’s airports.
“Let us complete the reorganization by adding a safeguard mechanism that will make certain that the public’s interest will always be protected. We must require that operators of casinos, public transportation, as well as mining companies, secure a legislative franchise from Congress prior to their operations,” he said.
“This will make certain that their applications are scrutinized deeply. Only the deserving will be allowed to operate,” he added.