Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Congress scoreboard


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The Senate and the House of Representatives passed one bill each before taking a recess on September 22.  That’s about 70 days since work started in the Thirteenth Congress.

That record is not very impressive, but not altogether surprising either. Our respected and respectable legislators never could confine themselves to legislating long enough to actually get enough done. After all, legislation never has been the sexiest of their, uh, duties.

They did approve on third and final reading a bill deferring the ARMM election from September 13, 2004, to the second Monday of August next year. The speed at which the bill was approved was impressive indeed, but not its subject matter; Congress didn’t really have a choice but to approve it, since the Comelec didn’t have the funds for an election.

It’s easy to blame the delays on the difficulties in organizing the standing committees. Without these committees, no hearing could be held, and it is the committee report that is debated on the floor. And without the committee report, our dear senators and congressmen spent their time—the taxpayer’s money—filing bills, delivering privileged speeches and conducting investigations in aid of legislation.

The bills filed recently aren’t novel or notable. Most are hand-me-downs from the Twelfth Congress. One senator tried to look busy by filing 200 bills, many of which are copies of those filed by a previous senator; another copied a bill filed by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

A noteworthy resolution seeks to cut the legislators’ pork barrel. The House agreed to slash it by 40 percent next year. The Senate doesn’t seem too enthusiastic about the topic, so a similar resolution, which seeks to cut its pork barrel by 50 percent, remains a proposal.

But the legislators are doing a good job impressing on the public that they’re earning their keep. They undertook numerous committee hearings with a sense of urgency, like those on the energy situation, the fiscal crisis and the improvement of the delivery of medical and health services. And they were reported by the media with as much urgency, especially the investigation into the services rendered by escort girls.

Congress is now enjoying one of its many regular recesses. It is the only member of the three major branches of government that does not work full-time.

Our lawmakers are also notorious for their tardiness and absenteeism. When Congress is in recess, the members embark on their favorite practice: traveling abroad for one reason or another at the taxpayers’ expense.

The circus in Congress isn’t anything new or surprising. Politics and politicians have always been a source of amusement for the people.

It is, however, disappointing. With all the evils slowly choking life and hope from the ordinary Juan, one would think that our beloved senators and congressmen would take their elected positions seriously enough to think of something to ease his burden.

China’s 55th National Day

China commemorated its 55th National Day in emotional ceremonies that praised its youth as the hope of its future.

National reunification by peaceful means and improvement of the leadership of the Communist Party were goals voiced by the country’s leaders in the celebrations.

But the Communist nation’s growing military might was played down this year, under the new leadership of President Hu Jintao, in stark contrast to the festivities of 1999. Then, China celebrated 50 years of Communist rule with a parade of half a million soldiers and civilians, a $36-million event designed to showcase its formidable military and economic strength.

China plays an important role in the realization of the Philippines’ development goals. It is the country’s sixth-largest trading partner and the fastest-growing market for its exports. The Philippines enjoyed a trade surplus of US$ 3.2 billion with China last year, The Associated Press reports. Bilateral trade was estimated at $9.4 billion in 2003,  a growth of 78.7 percent over the previous year.

China is a significant partner in the Philippine government’s push toward agricultural modernization: since 2003 hybrid rice varieties developed in China have been sown in a growing number of Philippine fields.

The Arroyo administration’s foreign policy acknowledges China as among three forces that will shape the future of the Asia-Pacific region, the other two being Japan and the United States.

On a three-day state visit to China in September, President Arroyo spoke with President Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and former President Jiang Zemin, now chair of the Communist Party commission that runs China’s military.

The visit resulted in the signing of four investment agreements between Chinese and Philippine enterprises. An earlier agreement had been forged for a Chinese government loan to finance Phase I of the North Railway project, which would link Metro Manila (via Caloocan) to Bulacan and Pampanga. The construction of the Northrail phase is predicted to create some 17,000 jobs.  The investment and loan agreements were worth $992 million.

The two nations have embarked on what is hoped to be a lasting and fruitful friendship.



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