A Look Into Legislation and the 15th Congress of the Philippines

In February, 1986, the EDSA revolution broke out and Corazon C. Aquino was installed as the new president of the Philippines. A plebiscite, held the following year, overwhelmingly ratified the present 1987 Constitution. The 1987 Constitution put back in place the presidential system of government and congress in effect became bicameral. Section 1, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution provides as follows:

The legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines, which shall consist of the Senate and the House of Representatives, except to the extent reserved to the people by the provision on initiative and referendum.

Legislative power is vested in the Congress of the Philippines, a bicameral body composed of two houses — the Senate and the House Representatives.

According to the Philippine Legislative, below is an enumeration of Congress’s legislative function:
1. It passes laws that regulate the conduct of and relations between the private citizens and the government
2. It defines and punishes crimes against the state and against persons and their property.
3. It determines the taxes people should pay for the maintenance of the government.
4. It appropriates the money to be spent for public purposes.
5. It can reorganize, create, or abolish offices under the civil service.
6. It can create and abolish courts, except the Supreme Court. 7.
7.Finally, it is only Congress which was given by the Philippine Constitution the sole power to declare war and to authorize the President – in case of national emergency or war – to issue executive orders embodying rules and regulations intended to carry out the national policy.

Congress is expected to make laws to ensure that the Constitution is upheld in the country. It also at times amends or changes the constitution.

The following is a summary of how a bill becomes a law:

Filing/Calendaring for First Reading
A bill is filed in the Office of the Secretary where it is given a corresponding number and calendared for First Reading.

First Reading
Its title, bill number, and author’s name are read on the floor, after which it is referred to the proper committee.

Committee Hearings/Report
Committee conducts hearings and consultation meetings. It then either approves the proposed bill without an amendment, approves it with changes, or recommends substitution or consolidation with similar bills filed.

Calendaring for Second Reading
The Committee Report with its approved bill version is submitted to the Committee on Rules for calendaring for Second Reading.

Second Reading
Bill author delivers sponsorship speech on the floor. Senators engage in debate, interpellation, turno en contra, and rebuttal to highlight the pros and cons of the bill. A period of amendments incorporates necessary changes in the bill proposed by the committee or introduced by the Senators themselves on the floor.

Voting on Second Reading
Senators vote on the second reading version of the bill. If approved, the bill is calendared for third reading.

Voting on Third Reading
Printed copies of the bill’s final version are distributed to the Senators. This time, only the title of the bill is read on the floor. Nominal voting is held. If passed, the approved Senate bill is referred to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

At the House of Representatives
The Lower Chamber follows the same procedures (First Reading, Second Reading and Third Reading).

Back to the Senate
If the House-approved version is compatible with that of the Senate’s, the final version’s enrolled form is printed. If there are certain differences, a Bicameral Conference Committee is called to reconcile conflicting provisions of both versions of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. Conference committee submits report on the reconciled version of the bill, duly approved by both chambers. The Senate prints the reconciled version in its enrolled form.

Submission to Malacañang
Final enrolled form is submitted to Malacañang. The President either signs it into law, or vetoes and sends it back to the Senate with veto message.

GLEANING THE 15th CONGRESS

The 15th Congress commenced on July 26, 2010 enveloped in an overcharged atmosphere of national optimism for radical change brought about by the election of President Benigno S. Aquino III. Members of the House of Representatives elected Rep. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of Quezon City as Speaker, manifesting their collective desire to establish the Chamber as a proponent of reform that would enact policies to meet high public expectations and follow the straight path to sustainable, people oriented development. In his inaugural speech, Speaker Belmonte declared his resolve to transform the House into a bastion of authentic, positive change and a beacon of good governance. He urged Members to conscientiously perform their legislative duties and exemplify a strong work ethic, marked by discipline,integrity, and commitment to pass laws that are responsive to the needs of the people.

In this light, this paper endeavours to take a look at the bills and resolutions that were passed into law during the 15th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines based on the “Recommendations from the Secretariat”. A data set in this paper is provided to show the Republic Acts passed. These data are accessed from the official websites of both the Senate and the House of the Representatives.

This paper then proceeds to classify and categorize the Republic Acts indicated in the data set as legislations in the following areas:
1.Administrative
2.Appropriation
3.Civil
4.Commercial / Mercantile
5.Crime
6.Health
7.Labor
8.Production
9.Judicial
10.Education
11.Tax
12.Youth

A total of 10,071 bills and resolutions were filed by House Members until June 6, 2013, of which 4,387 were processed. Of the total number, 452 measures became laws, three reports were ratified in the conference committee level, two were undergoing bicameral conference discussion, 16 concurred with Senate amendments, 585 were approved on Third Reading, 11 on Second Reading, 1610 resolutions and reports were adopted, and one was the impeachment complaint against then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Chief Justice Renato Corona. All in all, the House achieved a processing rate of 26 measures on each of the 168 session days.

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

The following areas of concern in legislation are a description of the set of legislations that were enacted based on the performance report of the House of Representatives of the 15th Congress, July 26, 2010 to June 6, 2013

Making Government Accountable to the People
The House showed its commitment to promote public accountability and responsiveness in the bureaucracy by passing measures that curb systemic corruption, maximize the impact of government services, and raise investor confidence in the country’s economic prospects.

One of the earliest laws enacted by the 15th Congress is the Government-Owned and –Controlled Corporations Governance Act (RA 10149) to curb financial abuses in public sector-owned businesses. Several other measures were meant to bring about major changes in government, especially in the country’s systems of social services, education and justice, such as the laws decriminalizing vagrancy, which protects indigents, particularly the homeless, from parties that may abuse the former due to their social status (RA 10158). Also was the amending of the Anti-Money Laundering Act to allow the investigation and freezing of suspected “dirty money” accounts (RA 10167 and RA 10365).

Important reforms were introduced to make the educational system commensurate with global standards by the passage of RA 10157, institutionalizing kindergarten education, and RA 10533, enhancing the Philippine basic education system by strengthening its curriculum and increasing the number of years for basic education, otherwise known as the K-12 Program.

Fighting Poverty and Social Injustice
In the 15th Congress, the House approved anti-poverty and inclusive growth-oriented budget bills. The annual General Appropriations Acts from 2011 to 2013 (RAs 10147, 10155, 10352) were passed on time to ensure the delivery of public services. The House also looked to the welfare of marginalized sectors of society such as those of women and children through the passage of poverty alleviation bills and by funding the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Other measures passed in this category are RA 10361, or the Kasambahay Law, which protects domestic workers from abuse as it upholds household employee rights; and RA 10165, or the Foster Care Act, which mandates the creation of an organized system of temporary foster home adoption under the supervision of the Department of Social Welfare and Development as a way to reduce the number of neglected or homeless children.

Boosting Economic Fundamentals
The House saw the need to boost Philippine competitiveness in time for a general resurgence in the world economy. The landmark “Sin Tax Law” (RA 10351) is expected to boost the government’s coffers by imposing additional levies toalcoholic and tobacco-based products. The potential earnings from these new taxes will be used to fund infrastructure projects, improve education, as well as finance government’s healthcare initiatives. The Chamber also enacted amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Law (RA 10167 and RA 10365) and the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) and Data Privacy Law (RA 10173) which prevent the perpetration of scams on the people on the internet and other digital media.

Promoting a Healthy Society
The country’s national budgets enacted during the 15th Congress provide for actions geared towards public healthcare, especially in rural areas, in terms of the construction of more healthcare facilities in the countryside.

The enactment of the law providing mandatory immunization of infants and children (RA 10152) illustrated Congress’ goal to provide wider and more accessible healthcare for all. RA 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act, emphasized determination of the House to overcome obstacles and to deliver planned parenthood services down to the barangay level.

Upholding People’s Rights
The House maintained its drive to protect every member of society–especially women and children—from violence, forced labor, human trafficking, and other forms of abuse. RA 10353, or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, is the first domestic anti-disappearance law in Asia, enacted 16 years after first being filed in the legislature. RA 10396, revitalizing the People’s Television Network, was signed into law in order to address government’s deficiencies in disseminating public information through broadcast media.
Other measures reinforcing human rights include HB 6751, amending the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.

Saving the Environment
To preserve the environment for future generations, the House passed bills that provided for the protection, rehabilitation, and sustainable management of forest ecosystems (HB 5485) as well as revive Arbor Day every June 25th to encourage the planting of trees (RA 10176), and bring about the general reforestation of the country’s terrestrial domains. RA 10587 regulates the practice of environmental planning while RA 10593 provides for stiffer penalties for the unauthorized cutting of coconut trees.

Defending National Sovereignty
In the context of emerging security threats—both internal and external —the 15th Congress emphasized the need to defend the Filipino people’s national interests in the midst of a changing geopolitical climate.
The Chamber passed RA 10349, which amends RA 7898, otherwise known as the AFP Modernization Act. The House made clear the Philippines’ undisputable rights over its claims in the West Philippine Sea by passing on Third Reading bills that define the maritime zones of the country (HB 4185) and establish archipelagic sea lanes, including the rights of foreign ships in Philippine waters (HB 4153), in reference to prevailing multilateral agreements, namely the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS).

The 15th Congress saw the House of Representatives mustering all the strength for the nation to combat corruption in the bureaucracy, improve accessibility and quality of government services for underprivileged Filipinos, and put in place administrative transparency and efficiency.

Public confidence in the House was gained as the leadership of Speaker Belmonte guided the direction of the institution in coming up with much needed policies that respond to the dire necessity of social change.

SOURCES

Bacani, Louis. “’Crucial’ House bills enacted in 15th Congress –Belmonte”.Philippine Star. http://www.philstar.com/nation/2013/06/05/950476/crucial-house-bills-enacted-15th-congress-belmonte/ (accessed March 10, 2013)

“History of the Senate – Senate of the Philippines.” History of the Senate – Senate of the Philippines. http://www.senate.gov.ph/about/history.asp (accessed March 12, 2014).

Institutional Information Materials Production Service Public Relations and Information Bureau . Championing Change and Good Governance. July 2013. Print.

Joven, Jose. “Part 1: Political Law.” Primer on Philippine Government and Constitution. 2nd ed. Manila: REX Book Store, 1990. 31-32. Print.

Legislation Group. “Performance of the Senate”. July 2012. Print.

“Legislative Process – Senate of the Philippines.” Legislative Process – Senate of the Philippines. http://www.senate.gov.ph/about/legpro.asp (accessed March 16, 2014).

Morado, Noel M., and Encarnacion Tadem, Teresa S. 2006. Philippine Politics and Governance An Introduction. Philippines: COA ASIA, Inc.

“Philippine Laws.” Chan Robles & Associates Law Firm – Home of the Chan Robles Virtual Law Library. http://www.chanrobles.com/philippinelaws.htm#.UyTLqT-SyXw (accessed March 16, 2014).
“Republic Acts.” Senate of the Philippines. http://www.senate.gov.ph/15th_congress/republic_acts.asp (accessed March 16, 2014).

Suarez, Rolando. Introduction to Law. 4th ed. Manila: REX Bookstore, 2003. Print.

Tassi, Paul. “The Philippines Passes a Cybercrime Prevention Act that Makes SOPA Look Reasonable.” Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/10/02/the-philippines-passes-the-cybercrime-prevention-act-that-makes-sopa-look-reasonable/ (accessed March 10, 2014).

“THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH.” Philippine Network Foundation, Inc.. http://www.ph.net/htdocs/government/phil/legislative/ (accessed March 15, 2014).

Umbao, Ed. “Top 5 Absentee Senators & Attendance During the 15th Congress.” Philippine News RSS. http://philnews.ph/2013/06/10/top-5-absentee-senators-attendance-15th-congress/ (accessed March 1, 2014).

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