THE Senate leadership plans to approve 35 measures, including the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), before it goes on a long break.
Congress will resume sessions on January 18 and has three weeks to tackle priority bills before it goes on a three-month break to give way to the 2016 national and local elections.
Senate president Franklin Drilon said the Senate will maximize its remaining months in session to focus on important legislation remaining on the priority agenda list.
“We will continue to work and fulfil our mandate by legislating relevant, important and much-needed laws for our people. Even if the 2016 elections are fast approaching, we are not done yet and the public can expect more laws to be passed for their benefits and to address their most pressing needs,” Drilon noted.
There are 34 bills up for third and final reading. These include the Salary Standardization Law IV; Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2015; Road Speed Limiters Act; Foreign Ownership Restrictions; and The Customs and Tariff Modernization Act (CTMA).
Aside from these measures, the chamber will also work on 67 other legislation pending on second reading, such as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) and Public-Private Partnership Act.
BLBAR is still in the period of interpellation but Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed belief that the chamber will be able to pass the measure on third reading next year.
Marcos, who chairs the committee on local government, said that he may come up with a compromise with the members of the chamber so that they will do away with debates on the proposed amendments in plenary once the bill reaches the period of amendments.
Instead of introducing amendments on the floor, Marcos said, there is a suggestion for the senators to send him all their proposed amendments and let the committee propose the amendments in order to expedite the process.
But Marcos noted that even if the Senate approves its version of the BBL, the chances of having the measure enacted into law during the term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd remains slim because the House of Representatives is having difficulty in mustering a quorum.
The senator said he expects the quorum problem to worsen in January because almost all of the members of the House of Representatives will be busy campaigning.
“I’m sure 99 percent of them (congressmen) are candidates for one thing or another so they will be campaigning. That’s what happened, I remember last 2013, there was no quorum,” Marcos earlier said.
There are 24 measures that were already approved on third reading by the Senate but these have yet to be acted upon by the House. These include the proposed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Law, the bill that will grant education assistance and benefits to dependents of all military and uniformed personnel and the measure that seeks to provide retirement benefits to barangay officials, tanods, barangay health workers and other employees of barangay units and the long pending Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.
Drilon said the Senate will not allow election fever to paralyze the chamber even if seven of its members are running for a higher post and five others, including Drilon, are seeking reelection.
Senators Grace Poe and Miriam Santiago are running for president while Senators Francis Escudero, Antonio Trillanes 4th, Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan 2nd and Marcos are all vice presidential candidates.
Aside from Drilon, Senators Ralph Recto, Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Serge Osmena 3rd, and Vicente Sotto 3rd are seeking reelection.