18th Congress: The Most Productive Ever Amid Pandemic – Cong. Jon Lazatin II

Third termer Congressman Carmelo Jon B. Lazatin II took his oath today in a simple yet important ceremonial gesture before Executive Judge Omar Viola, Regional Trial Court-Angeles City to formalize his new term for the incoming 19th Congress, and in an effort to make a public commitment to the duties, responsibilities and obligations as the representative in the first congressional district of Pampanga (Angeles City, Mabalacat City and the municipality of Magalang). Lazatin said the 18th Congress was “a key and steady partner of the Executive Department under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in passing laws that promoted economic development, strengthened the administration of justice and the rule of law, enhanced the protection of labor and social welfare, improved the quality of and increased access to education and information, enhanced our health and emergency response system, and strengthened our political and governmental institutions. I am in awe of the dedication to service and fortitude displayed by Members of Congress and our House employees.

They worked beyond the call of duty, at times of uncertainty and abnormality, to make the 18th Congress one of the most productive ever.” The House of Representatives, led by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, on Wednesday adjourned sine die the third and final session of the 18th Congress, leaving behind a good number of important legislation that would help the country navigate through and emerge stronger from the pandemic.

As the 18th Congress came to a close, Speaker Velasco had nothing but words of praise and gratitude for all House members and workers who exerted efforts to ensure that the legislature remained dynamic and productive despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.In his valedictory speech, Velasco thanked everyone who took part in building what he described as “One Congress,” which has delivered on its commitment to pass legislations that are responsive to the needs of Filipinos in these trying times.“Despite the many challenges that happened during my tenure as your Speaker, we have risen and proven ourselves to be One Congress, ready to serve our people,” Velasco told his colleagues.

“One Congress, ready to scrutinize the national budget, to pass laws, to conduct hearings, to provide oversight on the implementation of laws, and to generally make it easier for the next Congress and its leadership, to continue the legislative work for the sake of our kababayans,” he added.

The raging pandemic forced the House leadership to be dynamic, innovative and proactive. Hybrid hearings and aggressive mass testing were implemented, and health protocols were heightened to protect those attending the committee hearings and plenary deliberations.Some of the vital pieces of legislation were labeled Tulong, Tatag, Tapang and Malasakit.The 18th Congress passed key economic laws or “Tulong” bills that are expected to facilitate the country’s recovery from the pandemic, including the amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, the Foreign Investments Act, and the Public Service Act.

The passage of this trifecta of economic liberalization laws marks an important landmark meant to ease restrictions and will help bring in projected investment leads of $100 billion over a two-year period, and create more jobs for Filipinos that would help drive the country’s economic recovery.Aside from the Bayanihan laws, the outgoing Congress also passed several laws such as the “Tugon” measures for the pandemic, such as the vaccine procurement law and the Streamlining Government Services in Times of National Emergency Act.The best “Tugon’ for the pandemic remains the timely passage of the 2021 and 2022 national budgets, which would fund the pandemic-response programs of the national government.

The 18th Congress also passed other social and consumer protection laws such as Republic Act (RA) 11765, which gives more protection to consumers of financial services, and RA 11712, which grants mandatory continuing benefits to our healthcare frontliners.The institution-building or what is called the “Tatag” bills including RA 11768 was also passed, which seeks to strengthen the Sangguniang Kabataan; RA 11713, to support teacher education in the country; RA 11709, which creates fixed terms for key officers of the armed forces; and RA 11697, which paves the way for the development of electric vehicle industry in the country. The “Malasakit” laws were also passed such as RA 11767, which seeks to promote the rights of foundlings or abandoned children; RA 11650 that would ensure inclusive education for learners with disabilities; and RA 11648 that seeks to provide stronger protection for children against sexual abuse and exploitation by raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16; and the enactment of laws that promote justice and peace, such as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, and RA 11696 or the Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act.