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House to prioritize 5 bills in Duterte agenda

Christina Mendez, Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House to prioritize 5 bills in Duterte agenda
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco yesterday said the proposed measures are the five left for the chamber to pass from among the priority bills set by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives will prioritize the five remaining bills in the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration when sessions resume next week, after the President delivers his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco yesterday said the proposed measures are the five left for the chamber to pass from among the priority bills set by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

The Marinduque congressman identified them as the proposed Philippine Virology Institute Act, Center for Disease Control Act, Amendments to the Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016, Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act and National Housing Development Act.

“We will work toward the approval of these bills once we resume session and we will also take into account the priority measures President Duterte will mention in his sixth and final SONA. We will do our best to help the President fulfill all his promises to the Filipino people,” Velasco vowed.

Congress seeks the establishment of a Philippine Virology Institute as the premier research and development institution in the field of virology, encompassing all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants and animals.

It also wants to create the Philippine Center for Disease Control that will serve as the country’s principal health protection agency tasked to prevent, protect and manage the spread of diseases and other health threats originating domestically and internationally.

The proposed Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act seeks to modernize, professionalize and improve the compensation of officials and personnel of the BI, while the proposed National Housing Development Act aims to significantly reduce the country’s housing backlog through continuous funding support for socialized housing.

In his SONA last year, President Duterte asked Congress to amend the Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016, which requires Filipino professionals to take additional formal and non-formal learning before they can renew their licenses and identification cards.

Velasco stressed that the House performed well in passing Duterte’s priority bills in his SONA last year, some of which became laws such as the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentive for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act, Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act and Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2.

“We in the House have actually passed a lot of the priority bills of the President, some of which are under deliberation in the Senate,” he pointed out.

The House has passed other priority measures which remain pending in the Senate, including the proposed Internet Transactions Act and the creation of the Department of Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos.

Presidential Communications Operations Office chief Martin Andanar said the President’s last SONA would be Mindanao-themed, to be directed by Danny Abad of RTVM.

PTV general manager Katherine de Castro, co-chair of the PCOO SONA committee, noted that Abad is fit for the job because he had directed the SONA of past presidents.

“We will be playing pre-recorded favorite songs of President Duterte rendered by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra such as ‘Ang Pagbabago,’ ‘What a Wonderful World,’ ‘Dust in the Wind’ and ‘MacArthur Park,’ among others, throughout the SONA,” Andanar said.

“With our last year in the Duterte administration, we will ensure that this year’s SONA will be etched in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people that we’ve worked hard to serve,” he added.

Andanar said the PCOO has been working non-stop in preparing the SONA to make it “something that reflects President Duterte as a leader.”

“Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has to be taken into consideration in undertaking an important event such as this year’s SONA, more or less 400 physical attendees with negative COVID-19 tests will be allowed at the Batasang Pambansa’s Batasan Hall,” he said.

Honest assessment

As the nation awaits the President’s last SONA, Vice President Leni Robredo renewed her call for an “honest assessment” of the current situation in the country.

“People will not be content to listen to achievements… Since we are in the middle of the pandemic, it’s important to hear an honest assessment from the President,” the Vice President said in an interview in Naga City.

“It doesn’t help if he would say that we’re very OK but we don’t feel it. If he says we’re OK, we overcome the pandemic and we’re very efficient, it will only add to uncertainty, anxiety of the people,” she stressed.

Like last year, Robredo said she will attend Duterte’s sixth SONA on July 26 via Zoom.

Robredo earlier said Duterte doesn’t need “to paint a very good picture of the country” amid the pandemic.

An organization of religious leaders called One Voice, meanwhile, said Duterte is a “failure” as he has not fulfilled most of his campaign promises and even promoted the culture of violence.

“The truth remains: the people are suffering under the curtailment of civil liberties, daily killings and intensive militarization, government corruption and a languishing economy,” One Voice said in a statement.

“Even as he seeks to keep his grip on power, the truth is that Duterte has not delivered on his promises. From defending Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea to ending corruption in governance, from ending contractualization to strengthening business centers outside of Manila, from building peace to growing the economy, Duterte has been a sham,” it added.

One Voice is composed of Taytay Vicar Apostolic Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and Obispo Maximo Rhee Timbang of Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

Bro. Armin Luistro of the Lasallian East Asia District, Bishop Emergencio Padillo of the United Church of Christ in Philippines, Sr. Ma. Lisa Ruedas of Daughters of Charity and Sr. Rowena Pineda of the Sisters Association of Mindanao are also One Voice members.

They said the situation in the Philippines has worsened under Duterte, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused massive hunger and unemployment.

“We are governed by madmen, who have incited the spilling of blood and even celebrated the carnage. They relish their domination over others and do not bat an eyelash when speaking untruths, threats and words of disdain for their fellow Filipinos,” One Voice said.

Security

Presidential Security Group commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III  assured the public that adequate security measures would be implemented to “neutralize any threat” during the SONA.

“PSG is prepared for any contingency, thus we will implement our highest security protocols in 360-degree, to secure our President and ensure the success of his SONA at all costs,” Durante said.

“With this, the Presidential Security Group, together with its security counterparts, is ready to secure the President, the first family, other VIPs and guests,” the PSG said in a statement. – Robertzon Ramirez, Helen Flores, Romina Cabrera, Emmanuel Tupas

SONA 2021
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