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Sotto casts doubt on passing tax measures; terrorism bill top priority

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Vicente C. Sotto III
PHILSTAR

SENATE President Vicente C. Sotto III said the bill updating the anti-terrorism law is the Senate’s top priority measure when session resumes on May 20, while expressing doubt about the passage of pending tax measures for the remainder of the 17th Congress.

“Anti-terrorism act is number one,” he told reporters on Thursday.

Asked about the chances of the Tax Reform for Attracting Better and Higher-Quality Opportunities (TRABAHO) bill as well as the proposed hikes on tobacco, alcohol, and mining taxes reaching third reading approval in the Senate, Mr. Sotto said in a text message to BusinessWorld on Saturday, “Hearings on those have not been completed. No comm(ittee) reports yet. Doubtful at this point.”

Congress is on break between Feb. 9 and May 19 for the 2019 midterm elections. It will resume on May 20 with only nine session days remaining.

Senate Bill No. 2204 seeks to address the gaps in Republic Act No. 9372 or the Human Security Act by redefining the term terrorist acts and removing the limitations of law enforcement agencies to prevent and to address terrorism. It was sponsored to the plenary on Feb. 6 by Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs.

Meanwhile, the TRABAHO bill and the proposed hikes in tobacco, alcohol and mining taxes remain pending in the Senate committee on ways and means. Committee chair Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara conducted hearings on the bills last year and during the Senate’s Jan. 14-Feb. 8 session.

The House of Representatives passed on third reading last year House Bill 8083 or the TRABAHO bill as well as House Bills. 8677, 8618 and 8400, which seek to raise tobacco, alcohol and mining taxes, respectively.

Mr. Angara has said the Senate ways and means committee will come up with its report on the bill seeking to raise the excise tax on tobacco products when Congress resumes session in May.

Aside from the amendments to the Human Security Act, Mr. Sotto told reporters that the Senate’s other priority measures include the proposed Medical Scholarship Act, amendments to the Public Services Act, the proposed Mindanao Railways Authority, the Budget Reform Act, the National Transport Act, and the bill lowering the criminal age of responsibility.

“Some of them have been reported to floor so there’s a good chance that it will be passed on second and third reading. There are one or two of them, which are still being in the committee report level… It could still be passed in the first week of June,” he said.

The proposed Medical Scholarship Act and the Mindanao Railways Authority remain pending at committee level. Meanwhile, Senate Bill No. 1754 or the amendments to the Public Services Act, Senate Bill No. 1761 or the Budget Reform Act, Senate Bill No. 1284 or the National Transport Act and Senate Bill No. 2198 or the lowering of the age of criminality liability are awaiting second reading approval. — Camille A. Aguinaldo

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