Senate takes break, to resume on May 4

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

THE Senate on Wednesday adjourned its session and will resume on May 4.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the senators have been hard at work during these past few weeks as they "managed successfully to legislate several challenging measures that are of paramount interest and importance to our people."

"We have spent the recent weeks on exhaustive activities in relation to our successful passing of the Freedom of Information Bill, whose passage we have promised to the public, and other measures of socio-economic value like the Marina Bill, GO Negosyo Bill, and the extradition treaties with United Kingdom, Spain, and India."

Drilon noted that the different Senate committees have been simultaneously conducting hearings in aid of legislation regarding the country's most pressing issues such as the pork barrel scam, rice and onion smuggling controversies.

However, Drilon stressed that the Upper Chamber still has to deal with a long list of legislative agenda upon their return "that will further bolster the ongoing fight against corruption in Philippine bureaucracy, and those that will lift the living standards of our countrymen."

"Our work is surely not yet done, as we have several pending bills that need our attention. Even now, we are working closely with the House of Representatives, in order to fast-track the passage of legislation that will attain our common goals of genuine, sustainable economic growth, and of stopping graft and corruption," Drilon said.

Among the priority bills is Senate Bill 2138, which seeks to introduce amendments that will speed up the cases filed at the Sandiganbayan. The bill proposes systemic reforms to the anti-graft court, such as the transfer of "minor cases" to the regional trial courts to free up the anti-graft court, which is now handling at least 3,000 cases.

Moreover, Drilon said that economic and pro-consumer measures are also in order when they get back: "We will also work to increase the tax exemption ceiling of the 13th month pay, Christmas bonuses and other benefits from P30, 000 to P75, 000, so our humble workers can go home during the holidays without having to worry about decreases from their bonuses."

"We also have in our sights other fiscal and financial legislation such as the Anti-Trust Bill, amendments to the fiscal incentives rationalization Act, reforms to the Cabotage Law and Land Use Policy. Similarly, we are going to study the possibility of necessary amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira)," he added.

As agreed upon with the leadership of the House of Representatives, he further said that they will "be soon discussing the possibility of economic provisions to the Constitution to improve the country's ability to invite foreign direct investments."

Other measures in the Senate's list will be the Graphic Health Warning bill, bills on ladderized and distant learning programs for higher education, and proposed measures that will mandate telecommunications company to send out free mobile alerts during times of disaster, as part of the country’s emergency protocols. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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