House ends debates on anti-trust bill

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 06 2015 01:07 PM | Updated as of Mar 06 2015 09:07 PM

MANILA - After eight Congresses, the House of Representatives has finally terminated debates on an anti-trust bill, moving the country one step closer to the passage of a fair competition or anti-trust law.

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte reported this to the media. The debates were terminated during sessions this week. The bill has moved into the period of amendments, after which it will be put to a vote on 2nd reading.

Belmonte is hoping that a vote can be done before Congress goes on summer vacation later this month. The Senate has passed its own version of the bill.

"Ito pala ang longest bill, this anti-trust or fair competition law, from the 8th to 16th Congress, it has always been filed. This time, I think we will succeed. We have finished the period of interpellations, nasa amendments na kami. I'm very hopeful. It's a piece of legislation that's needed. I'm hopeful we can do it before we adjourn on the 18th," he said.

Generally speaking, anti-trust laws are designed to protect consumers from predatory business practices by guaranteeing fair competition exists.

Passing an anti-trust law has been an advocacy of Belmonte, himself a businessman by profession. His family owns a media company, among other businesses.

Belmonte, however, admitted this anti-trust bill is not as tough as he wants it to be.

"My comment: It's not as strong. It's still going through the period of amendments, bicam, may period pa to improve it if enough people would support that. We want a stronger bill... Pero the mere fact na pumapasa yan is a big step forward considering it's the longest existing bill."

OTHER PENDING BILLS

On the other hand, the House Speaker does not seem so keen on the prospects of another of his advocacies, passing an amendment to the 1987 Constitution that will empower Congress to relax restrictions on the country's economy.

Passing a constitutional amendment requires a vote of 3/4 of the House and another 3/4 vote at the Senate, after which it must be approved by the electorate in a plebiscite.

"I'm having my doubts. Still, I'd like to continue it. It's needed. People cannot understand, businesses cannot understand why such an innocuous amendment...is having a difficult time. Whether difficult or not, itutuloy ko rin. We want to show it's a giant step forward if we're successful to get a high majority vote," Belmonte said.

Belmonte is non-committal over other high-profile pieces of legislation pending before the House.

For example, the pending bill extending the life of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) -- one bill merely grants a two-year extension while another bill seeks to continue and expand the program.

Another example would be the anti-political dynasty bill, which Belmonte thinks may become politicized closer to the 2016 election period, as certain families may have members running for different government offices.

"Sa amin, gusto ko makita pumasa sa amin. The concession the author was willing to make, instead of one person per nuclear family, two persons of nuclear family. That will reduce the families that will be covered...unless it becomes political issue, it will have chance at lower House."

As for the freedom of information (FOI) bill, Belmonte expects it to be put to a vote within the term of the 16th Congress.

The bill got the approval of the appropriations committee for its funding requirements.

Belmonte also noted that the proposed mining bill is not moving as fast as he wants it.