House eyes holding marathon 2020 budget hearings

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019   •   419

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is eyeing to hold marathon sessions for the immediate passage of the P4.1-trillion proposed national budget for 2020, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.

In a statement, Romualdez said House members have agreed to work day and night from Monday to Friday to ensure that the 2020 General Appropriations Act will be approved by October this year.

“This will give the Senate ample time to scrutinize the budget approved by the House. Hopefully we can have a bicameral conference by early December, then approve the 2020 national budget before the year ends,” he said.

The House Committee on Appropriations, headed by Davao City 3rd District Rep. Isidro Ungab, has started on Thursday the deliberations on the 2020 budget bill with a briefing of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), the inter-agency panel that sets the overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget of the government.

READ: House begins 2020 budget hearings

By September 12, Romualdez said the lower chamber would hold sessions on Thursdays and Fridays, past the regular schedule of Monday to Wednesday.

He added that the plenary session was also moved from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. to give way to four budget hearings scheduled by the Committee on Appropriations.

“We will hold four budget hearings daily at the committee level almost simultaneously. The hearings are scheduled at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.,” Romualdez said.

“House members may have to shuttle between hearings in order to maximize their participation in the budget deliberations. I am thankful that all the House members agreed to this schedule, which is really a tall order,” he added.

The lawmaker said he had also approved the request of Ungab to allow the holding of committee hearings on the budget even after the plenary proceedings have started at 5 p.m.

“This means that the appropriations committee may hold budget hearings at the committee level simultaneous with the plenary debates on other pending bills and resolutions,” Romualdez said.

“This will ensure that plenary deliberations on other pending issues, such as the vital revenue measures, will push through even as we are working round the clock on the budget bill,” he added.

Under Section 71 of the House Rules, congressmen are deemed present in a House session if they are attending committee meetings authorized by the House committee on rules, which is currently chaired by Romualdez as Majority Leader.

Section 35 of the House Rules, on the other hand, provides that: “Only the committee on rules and such committees to which it has granted permission, may meet while the House is in plenary session, has adjourned, or is in recess.”

Romualdez said that under these rules, the committee on appropriations “may continue with their budget hearings while the House is in plenary session.

“We are invoking the powers of the Majority Leader, as Rules Chairman, to enable the House to tackle simultaneously all the vital measures included in the President’s legislative agenda,” he said.

House passes bill seeking stiffer penalties vs child abusers

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to impose stiffer penalties against child abuse, exploitation, and discrimination.

With 228 affirmative and zero negative votes, the Lower Chamber on Monday passed the House Bill No. 137 or the proposed “Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.”

The bill, which would amend parts of the Republic Act No. 7610, aims to deter exploitation and further promote the best interest of the child.

The measure proposes penalties for the following unlawful acts done against children:

  • Any person who shall hire, employ, use, persuade, induce, or coerce a child to perform in obscene publications and indecent shows shall suffer the penalty of reclusion temporal in its medium period, and reclusion temporal in its maximum period if the said person is an ascendant, guardian, or person entrusted in any capacity with the care of the child. If the child is below twelve (12) years of age, the penalty shall be Reclusion Perpetua in its maximum period.
  • Imprisonment of six months to a minimum of one year to six years or a fine between P100,000.00 to P300,000.00 for child labor practices.
  • Section 12 of R.A. No. 10364 or the “Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012,” which provides for the penalties and sanctions for trafficked persons, shall now be imposed on the employment of trafficked children.
  • Discrimination of children from indigenous cultural communities shall now have a penalty of prison correctional in its medium period. A fine between P50,000.00 and P100,000.00 shall also be imposed.
  • The offender shall undergo a re-education and reorientation program on the Indigenous Peoples culture of the Philippines to be conducted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples or the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights.

Under the bill, the penalties for other acts of abuse, cruelty, or exploitation and other conditions prejudicial to the child’s development shall also be raised.

The approved measure is a consolidation of six bills.

The Senate version of the bill remains pending at the committee level.

House Speaker Cayetano vows impartial hearing on bills seeking ABS-CBN franchise renewal

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has assured that the House of Representatives will conduct impartial hearing on bills seeking to renew the franchise of media network ABS-CBN.

In a statement on Tuesday, Cayetano said the renewal of ABS-CBN franchise are among the issues that the Lower House has been “carefully studying from day one of the 18th Congress” amid calls from his colleagues to set a hearing to tackle the pending bills.

“Congress is committed to conduct a hearing where those who are against or in favor of the renewal may make their case,” he said, adding that the move will be consistent with the Duterte administration’s stand on the protection of the freedom of expression.

There are at least 11 bills seeking for the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise pending before a House committee level, just about a month before Congress sessions adjourn on March 11. The network’s franchise is set to expire on March 30.

However, Cayetano stressed that the legislation process cannot be rushed.

“While we understand that there are certain interests who want to rush this process, we stand by the leadership of the 18th Congress and the Committee on Legislative Fanchises on how to prioritize urgent and important legislation,” he said.

“We also commit that the 18th Congress shall study this issue from all aspects in order to protect the interest of the public,” he added.

Cayetano issued the statement after Solicitor General Jose Calida filed a quo warranto case before the Supreme Court asking for the forfeiture of the legislative franchise of ABS-CBN.

Calida cited in his plea the alleged highly abusive practices and violations of the broadcast network, including foreign ownership and lack of operation permits.

The network has denied the accusations, maintaining that it has no outstanding tax liability and did not violate the law.

House sets hearing on impact of COVID-19 on PH tourism

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 12, 2020

The House of Representatives will have a joint hearing on the impact of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 on Philippine tourism and travel industry.

The House Committee on Economic Affairs and the House Committee on Tourism will have a joint hearing on Wednesday (February 12) to get the views and perspectives of government officials and tourism stakeholders from the private sector on the issue.

According to Philippine Tour Operators Association (Philtoa) President Cesar Cruz about 50 percent of reservations in Boracay, Cebu and Palawan have been canceled as a result of the imposition of travel ban to and from China.

Philtoa estimates that the tourism industry has lost at least P10 billion so far.

Meanwhile, the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) had a preliminary estimate that the economy might lose up to 0.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or about P133 billion if the virus continues to spread.

House Speaker Alan Cayetano earlier expressed the need to ensure that tourism growth will not be derailed as a result of the travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 threat.—AAC

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