Senate adjourns session; to tackle tax reform, 2018 budget on return

The Senate adjourned its session today, October 12, 2017.

When session resumes on November 13, the Senate will tackle Senate Bill No. (SBN) 1592, or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill being pushed by Malacañang, and House Bill No. (HBN) 6215 per Senate Committee Report 167, or the 2018 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

Both measures are currently pending on 2nd reading.

Among the amendments introduced by the Senate in the 2018 budget is the allocation of P10 billion for the rehabilitation of Marawi City next year, sourced from the 2018 budget of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund. The amount is on top of the P5 billion given this year for Marawi’s rehabilitation.

Funding for Marawi’s rehabilitation will also come from the government’s Contingency Fund and the funds of other agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Armed Forces Engineering Brigade.

The Senate has also approved the P693-million budget for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to fund the commission’s various programs and activities in 2018, including continuing assistance to victims of human rights violations during the 2013 Zamboanga siege.

Legislative accomplishments

Since the start of the 2nd Regular Session last July, six measures passed by the Senate had been signed into law by the President including the Philippine Passport Act (RA10928); Free Internet Access in Public Spaces Act (RA 10929); Extending the Validity Period of Driver’s Licenses to 5 Years (RA10930); Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA10931); Anti-Hospital Deposit Law (RA 10932) and Amending the Revised Penal Code (RA 10951).

Also in the list of new laws is the postponement of the barangay polls from October 23, 2017 to the second Monday of May 2018 (Republic Act 10953), which was signed into law last October 4.

Other bills the Senate had passed on third reading included the proposed Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act of 2017 (SBN 1465), Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act of 2017 (SBN 1397), Gift Check Act of 2017 (SBN 1466), the Expanded Anti-Red Tape Act (SBN 1311), Fiscal and Monetary Report Act of 2017 (SBN 1483), and the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund Act of 2017 (SBN 1461).

The bicameral conference committee report on HBN 6061 (Gift Check Non-Expiry Act) and SBN 1466 (Gift Check Act), was reported out and approved on the floor before session adjourned, with both Houses of Congress agreeing to use the Senate version.

The bicameral conference committee on the disagreeing provisions of SBN 1465 (Free Irrigation Service to Small Farmers Act of 2017) and HBN 5670 (Free Irrigation Services Act), meanwhile, succeeded in coming up with a reconciled version. Both chambers agreed to provide free irrigation services to farmers with farm holding of not more than 8 hectares.

Local measures, resolutions

The Senate also passed a number of bills of local application, 13 of which created new barangays while eight measures focused on the franchise applications of several radio and television networks.

Twelve other resolutions were adopted by the chamber such as Senate Resolution No. 213, which directed the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the economic effects of the present model of operation and regulation of the telecommunications industry.

The Senate has also adopted Proposed Senate Resolutions No. (PSRN) 459, 460, 461 and 462, all of which commended farmers and cooperatives for winning the Landbank’s 2017 Gawad sa Pinakatanging Kooperatiba (Gawad PITAK) for their roles as “agents of growth in the countryside”; PSR No. 478, which commended four teachers, three soldiers and three police officers who were recognized by the Metro Bank Foundation for their excellent work and extraordinary dedication in their respective professions.

The Upper Chamber likewise adopted PSR No. 481, which expressed the sense of the Senate to support the appeal of the President to the American government for the return of the Balangiga bells that were taken as trophies of war by American military troops in 1901, as well as PSR No. 500, which expressed the sense of the Senate to join the community of nations and parliaments around the world in commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Democracy.

Also adopted were PSR No. 528 recognizing and congratulating Jesus is Lord Church for celebrating its 39th Founding Anniversary on October 27, 2017 and PSR No. 529, authorizing the chairmen of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights to make public the testimony of Mr. John Paul Solano, given during an executive session, in connection with the Senate investigation into the death of hazing victim Horatio “Atio” T. Castillo III. (Yvonne Almirañez)

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