“Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made,” said Mark Twain. From the nearly two years I’ve worked as the Head Executive Assistant of Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, I can say that I still have high regard for the law despite seeing up close how these are made.
As a relatively new father, I cannot help but relate the passage of a law with the birth of a child. Instead of incubating inside a mother’s womb, a law starts as a gritty initial House Bill, naïve of the pounding it will receive in the House committee hearings. After weeks of being subjected to debates between House members, public officials, and other stakeholders, the House Bill is thrown to the plenary, then to the Senate, and finally to the Office of the President for its final approval. Once signed, the law commences its life in Philippine society, now subject to oversight and much public scrutiny, just like a kid growing up in a tough neighborhood.
Seeing the process is a fulfilling experience. Politics will always be there mainly because we deal with politicians daily. Controversies and issues are aplenty. Yet despite all this, I can wholeheartedly say that the 17th Congress will be remembered as one of the most hardworking set of House members that this country will ever see.
The Second Regular Session of the 17th Congress adjourned sine die last May 30. The numbers do not lie: In 183 session days since its resumption of session in July 2017, the House processed a total of 2929 legislative measures, 766 of which have been approved in the plenary. Most importantly, 91 of these legislative measures have been signed into law.
Beyond numbers, the House legislates to lay the groundwork for sustained nation building. The leadership of Speaker Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas provides strategic direction by prioritizing measures that introduce meaningful change to the lives of the Filipino people.
Among the measures signed into law are the resolution increasing the base pay of military and uniformed personnel, the first package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), the Philippine Qualifications Framework Act, the Free Irrigation Service Act, and the Ease of Doing Business Act. Following their approval from both the House and the Senate, at the doorstep of becoming laws are the historic Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the country’s first National ID System, the Mental Health Act, and the long-awaited Coco Levy Trust Fund Act.
The House takes its commitment to delivering quality legislation to the Filipino people further by initiating groundbreaking projects such as youth forums, educational competitions, and internship programs, aimed at bringing the House closer to the people.
LIYAB Leadership Series is a forum we patterned after TED Talks, which brings in young people to the Batasang Pambansa to take part in thought-provoking discussions on issues such as peacebuilding, social innovations, and the youth’s role in national development.
The Bill Drafting Contest, the first of its kind at the House, strengthens the role of the youth further by engaging them in research and policymaking right at the heart of legislation. The One House Internship Program is an avenue for college students to experience firsthand the machinery of the House, exposing them to the realities of legislative work.
The House leadership takes care of its people by having an active merit-based Promotions and Selection Board. Two new carpark buildings were constructed to address the influx of vehicles. We brought in new food concessionaires to Batasan, including Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL) and weekly food trucks.
Among the plans is to slowly migrate the website of the House to “house.gov.ph” from “congress.gov.ph” since the word “Congress” pertains to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is about time that the House maintain and uphold its own identity.
Further, our Office intends to meet with the new Senate leadership to collaborate with a new “congress.gov.ph” website that will serve as the portal to the Legislative Branch. The public must likewise anticipate our planned hackathon that would bring in young IT developers to create meaningful apps to aid policy making and legislation.
As the Third and final Regular Session of the 17th Congress nears, rest assured that the House is gearing up to deliver its promise of even more meaningful legislation projects for the Filipino people. This being so, allow us to prepare for the much anticipated State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23, 2018, to be streamed on Facebook Live. And to add anticipation for this event, this could be the first time that a President will sign a bill into law during SONA, should the BBL deliberations finish and the same is ratified in time.
These are exciting times in the 17th Congress. Someone, hand me a sausage with some extra mustard on it.
Atty. Darren M. de Jesus is the Head Executive Assistant of Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, and the OIC Deputy Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary and Public Affairs Department, House of Representatives. He is a litigator and a lecturer. For comments, email him at email@example.com.