MANILA, Philippines - Controversial bills on reproductive health (RH), freedom of information (FOI) and the legalization of divorce in the Philippines will be prioritized by the House of Representatives when it opens its 3rd regular session in late July.
House Speaker Sonny Belmonte said other bills were approved on 2nd reading and are ready for approval on 3rd reading.
He doesn't think the filing of candidacies for the May 2013 elections in October will affect their work since the campaign period won't be till next year.
Belmonte said he supports the divorce bill and wants to ensure that the RH bill is put to a vote.
He also already instructed the House Public Information Committee to file the FOI bill in plenary.
"I myself in favor of it. The divorce (bill) is at a very early stage. It's the other 2 at the advanced stage. We will give it our best shot, lalo na the first 2 bills," he said.
Belmonte also expressed hope that the Philippines will no not be blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) after it passed stricter anti-money laundering laws.
Belmonte, however, said they will again file a new bill pushing for more amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
During his sine die adjournment speech, Belmonte praised his colleagues for impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, the bills they passed during the 2nd regular session, and the perceived improved image of the lower House.
“We close the second regular session riding once again the crest of public trust as the latest surveys show that our public approval
ratings continue to rise – now at 45% according to Pulse Asia - the best proof that our people can see that we are doing a good job," he said.
Belmonte said that to date, the 15th Congress has passed 253 national bills.
Among the key measures enacted into law:
- institutionalizing kindergarten education into the basic education system,
- promoting financial viability and fiscal discipline in government corporations,
- extending the implementation of the lifeline rate under the EPIRA law,
- allowing the employment of night workers,
- providing for mandatory basic immunization services for infants and children,
- decriminalizing vagrancy, and
- the act requiring all concerned government agencies to ensure the early release of the retirement pay, pensions, gratuities and other benefits of retiring government employees.
Bills approved on third reading:
- an act defining the maritime zones of the Philippines,
- establishing the archipelagic sea lanes in the country,
- the internal displacement act;
- universal health care services to all Filipinos,
- the ladderized education program,
- the open learning and distance education act,
- open high school system act,
- the credit assistance program for overseas workers,
- the investments and incentives code of the Philippines,
- the Customs modernization and tariff act,
- the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology;
- the hazardous and radioactive waste management act,
- the marine protected areas act,
- the sustainable forest management act, and
- the survey of cadastral lots in the country.
Meantime, Belmonte named Representatives Rufus Rodriguez and Rodolfo Antonino to a panel he is forming to study the publication of congressmen's statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.