House leaders cite gains

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The failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) does not diminish the gains of the House of Representatives under the Aquino administration, House leaders said on Saturday.

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Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. and Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list noted that the non-passage of the BBL should not be used as a gauge of the chamber’s success because it was able to pass “ground¬breaking bills.” These include bills that increased the prices of cigarettes and liquor, grants Philhealth coverage for all senior citizens, excludes 13th month pay worth P82,000 and below from taxes, as well as the Reproductive Health bill and the Fair Competition law that outlaws monopoly.

“We have already accomplished a lot of things despite time spent on the proposed Bangsamoro law,” Belmonte said.

“The Lower House under Speaker [Feliciano] Belmonte [Jr.] has passed several vital measures which were languishing for several congresses and could not even pass second reading. This alone is an achievement which we can be proud of, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic law notwithstanding,” Batocabe, who heads the party-list coalition in Congress, said

But for Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list, Congress will have nothing to show off without the passage of the Freedom of Information and the Anti-Political Dynasty bills.

“Without these two, Congress has failed. And this is also indicative of the President’s performance,” he said.

Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list meanwhile believes that the situation of the youth worsened under Aquino’s term.

Ridon said under Aquino, tuition rates increased by an average of 108 percent, from P257 per unit to P574. The rate of increase is even higher at the National Capital Region at 143 percent.

“The onslaught of commercialization and education deregulation under the Aquino administration has driven not one, but many students to desperation and even death. This is Aquino’s real legacy to the Filipino youth,” Ridon said.

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