The 16th Congress will open its second regular session with lawmakers facing intense pressure to approve landmark legislation amid moves to amend the Constitution and impeach President Aquino who will deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) today.
Senate President Franklin Drilon revealed the Senate and the House of Representatives have not abandoned plans to amend the 1987 Constitution.
Drilon said the Senate will await the action of their counterparts at the House of Representatives on the proposal to amend the economic provisions in the Constitution to ratchet up the country’s foreign direct investment.
President Aquino will deliver his SONA as he called on Congress to approve the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015, the Anti-Trust Bill, amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Drilon said the Senate will immediately act on the Bangsamoro Basic Law as soon as the draft version is submitted to Congress.
“The Senate remains confident and committed to the cause of serving our people, no matter the challenges that this institution will face,” Drilon said.
The Senate and the House have been beset with corruption scandals since last year, including the alleged multibillion-peso pork barrel scam and the payouts to lawmakers from the P177-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that the Supreme Court earlier ruled unconstitutional.
Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. held their regular meeting to compare notes and update the status of pending bills in the two chambers.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa attended the meeting for the first time.
Aquino has not reconvened the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council – the coordinating mechanism for the passage of priority bills – since early last year, forcing leaders of Congress to hold their own meetings.
“With the Senate, we have a common legislative agenda, and these are numerous or about over 50 bills and of course we’re tracking what we’ve previously agreed upon, which have already been enacted into law, which are in the advanced stage, and our work bore fruit,” Gonzales said.
Because of close coordination between the Senate and the House, Gonzales said, Congress in the first regular session from July 2013 to last month, had 15 bills enacted into law, 208 approved on third and final reading, 20 measures approved on second reading, and 11 resolutions adopted, or a total of 354 legislation passed.
He said Malacañang, prior to the congressional break in May, submitted a list of 30 priority bills but it turned out that over a third of them are already part of the Senate-House legislative agenda.
Gonzales said the congressional leaders asked Ochoa to make sure which version of the common priority measures are backed by Malacañang.
“The worst that can happen, there are many instances where there are many bills included in our priorities and included also in Malacañang’s priorities but turns out that one Cabinet member or department opposes our version,” he said.
“That’s why we told Ochoa to get their act together and make sure that all Cabinet members agree with their list,” he added.
Gonzalez said the chamber is expected this week to give its final approval on various education measures, and resume deliberations on Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, which seeks to relax restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution to boost the inflow of foreign direct investment.
Both chambers also agreed to approve the Anti-Trust Bill before yearend.
Gonzales also gave assurance that the proposed budget will be passed on time before the end of the year. – With Michael Punongbayan
Written by: Paolo Romero and Christina Mendez