The current 17th Congress met last Monday to begin the last two weeks of its existence before it finally adjourns on June 5.
The 18th Congress—with a House of Representatives composed of 303 members elected last May 13 and a Senate with 12 holdover members and 12 newly elected ones – will hold its opening sessions on July 22, at which time it will meet in joint session to heard President Duterte deliver his State of the Nation Address.
In these last few days of the 17th Congress, some legislators remain hopeful that some important bills they filed can still be acted upon by Congress. House Majority Leader Fredenil Castro listed at least eight House measures which, he hoped, will merit Senate action. Among them are the Security of Tenure Act, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) 2, Mining Taxes, Alcohol Taxes, and Constitutional Change to federalism.
Senate President Protempore Ralph Recto and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, however, said the Senate is not inclined to pass any new tax bills as these will require deep study and long debates. Also cited as needing considerable time and study are the bills on Charter Change and revival of the death penalty for certain crimes.
We can understand the desire of some legislators to see their pet bills enacted into law, but this 17th Congress is highly unlikely to take any more action, especially on controversial bills that dominated the headlines in recent months.
Possibly the most controversial of these bills is the one on Charter Change, with its principal provision for a federal form of government for the country. Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has already said there is absolutely no more time for this bill and it should be left to the 18th Congress to consider it.
As for tax bills, TRAIN 2 seeks to lower corporate taxes while removing many of the tax exemptions granted by past Congresses to foreign firms to entice them to set up operations in the Philippines’ export zones. There is fear that many foreign firms may pull out, if they lose their present exemptions, thus adding to the country’s unemployment problem.
These and other controversies may have to be left to the next Congress. The last election created a House with an entirely new membership of 303 district and partylist representatives and a Senate of 12 new members joining 12 holdover ones. The old 17th Congress has done its job well and should now let the new 18th Congress carry on the job of carrying on the work of legislation for the country.