By Camille A. Aguinaldo and Charmaine A. Tadalan
CONGRESS RESUMES session on Tuesday with the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) leading the priority measures of both chambers and charter change and amendments to the Human Security Act among the Senate’s priorities.
The proposed BBL or Senate Bill No. 1717, which remained pending on second reading, would establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and replace the existing Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The House Committee on Local Government is set to hold on Tuesday a joint meeting with the Committees on Muslim Affairs and on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity to draft the committee report on House Bill (HB) 6475 in consolidation with three other bills on BBL.
Voting 2-3, the House panels on April 16 moved to adopt HB 6475, principally authored by Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez. The bill is similar to the version submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to the House.
This will be consolidated with HBs 92, 6121, and 6263, authored by Representatives Bai Sandra A. Sema, Gloria M. Arroyo, and Mohammad Khalid Q. Dimaporo, respectively.
“We want to finish it (BBL) before we adjourn sine die,” Deputy Speaker Raneo E. Abu told BusinessWorld in a text message. “And be part of the SONA (State of the Nation Address) of the President when we open the third regular session of (the) 17th Congress.”
The Senate, for its part, will also prioritize charter change proposals in the proposed shift by the Duterte administration towards a federal form of government.
Another priority measure is the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2017 or Senate Bill No. 1715 which seeks to amend the Human Security Act and impose stiffer penalties for individuals committing acts of terror. The bill was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III.
On proposed measures aimed at improving government processes, the Senate prioritized the proposed Open Access in Data Transmission Act, the Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute Act, the National Museum Act, the Retirement Law of the Office of the Ombudsman, amendments to the Fair Elections Act, as well as the proposed Department of Disaster Response and Preparedness and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Also in the Senate’s list of priority bills are reforms to the justice system such as the proposed Anti-Discrimination Act, Criminal Investigation Act, and the Community Service in lieu of Imprisonment Act.
On health and social service reforms, the Senate plans to approve on third and final reading the proposed Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy At, the Enhanced Universal Health care Act, the One Town: One Doctor Act, and the amendments to the Social Security Act.
On economic reforms and consumer rights, the Senate will tackle the proposed amendments to the Corporation Code of the Philippines, amendments to the Agricultural Tariffication Act, amendments to the Government Procurement Act, Budget Reform Act, the proposed Innovative Startup Act, and the Philippine Fare Discount Act.
Mr. Sotto said the Senate is targeting to approve on third and final reading at least 24 bills.
As for the second package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, “The Committee (on ways and means) has not started (discussions) yet,” Deputy Speaker Eric D. Singson said in a text message.
“What I know (is) they only got briefing, no public hearing yet and it was not included in those to be tackled and approved within the remaining three weeks of session days.”
A bill on the second package of the tax reform law, filed on March 21 by ways and means chair and Quirino Representative Dakila Carlo E. Cua, seeks to gradually decrease corporate income tax rates to 25% from 30% and streamline fiscal incentives.
For her part, Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said in a statement: “If the next two weeks are not enough to produce the priority legislative agenda of Congress and of President Duterte, I believe a special session of Congress in the first two weeks of June would be possible, reasonable and appropriate.”