Press Release
February 4, 2010

Enrile: "A laborious but gainful 3rd regular session"

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile recently described the chamber's accomplishments for the 3rd Regular Session which commenced last July 27 and adjourned on Dec. 18 in time for the holiday season, and resumed on January 18 for a 3-week session, as "laborious but gainful". "It was hard work but we are duty-bound to perform our mandate as duly elected Senators of the Republic," Enrile said.

Enrile described the month of December as particularly "grueling," as both Houses of Congress were faced with the daunting task of passing the proposed 2010 national budget, while, at the same time, having to convene a historic joint session to deliberate on Proclamation No. 1959, declaring a state of martial law and suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus in the province of Maguindanao.

The Senate also adopted 42 resolutions, including Senate Resolution 217, expressing the sense of the Senate that Proclamation No. 1959 is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.

"I am proud to say that this Congress has passed more bills than the 11th, 12th and 13th Congress combined," Enrile said.

"Out of around 500 Senate and House bills that were passed on Third Reading, more than half were enacted into law," Enrile added.

Among the bills passed was the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) or R.A. 9700, which was strengthened through the institution of necessary reforms and the extension of the acquisition and distribution of all agricultural lands.

"With CARP, our marginalized farmers and farm workers will receive the highest consideration to promote social justice and to move the nation toward rural development and industrialization" Enrile said.

Enrile lauded the move of President Arroyo to strengthen and rationalize the regulatory capacity of the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) through the establishment of adequate testing laboratories and field offices, upgrading of equipment, and the augmentation of its human resource complement by giving the agency the authority to retain its income.

"Also, both Houses passed a joint resolution authorizing the President of the Philippines to modify the compensation and position classification system of civilian personnel, together with the base pay schedule of both military and uniformed personnel in the government," Enrile added. The resolution, which took effect last July 1, came as a welcome respite in the face of a global economic downturn in the early part of the year.

Moreover, Congress passed the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 which criminalizes torture and penalizes torturers and their superiors in law enforcement bodies that ordered the torture and outlaws any justification for torture and other inhuman punishments, and R.A. 9851, which penalizes crimes against international humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Also passed by the Senate on Third Reading was the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2009 granting additional benefits and privileges to senior citizens. The bill, passed by both Houses of Congress, is now awaiting the President's approval.

"All of us in the Senate and the House of Representatives hope for the speedy approval of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act. Giving additional benefits and privileges is our way of acknowledging the older generation for the years of service and sacrifices that they have given our country," Enrile said.

Another important piece of legislation, the Philippine Immigration Act, which is now pending in the bicameral conference by the Senate. The bill creates the Philippine Immigration Authority, which will be tasked to administer and enforce immigration, alien registration, and citizenship laws, including those dealing with the admission, exclusion, registration, removal and repatriation of foreigners.

On the issue of privacy, Senate Bill No. 3529, also known as the Anti-Camcording Act, and Senate Bill No. 3530, the Anti-Cable Television and Cable Internet Services Pilferage Act were also passed on Third Reading.

In connection with bills on information and technology, the Department of Information and Communications Technology Act was passed on Third Reading. Senate Bill No. 2546 creates an infrastructure that will ensure the provision of a strategic, reliable, cost-efficient and citizen-centric information and communications technology (ICT) network, with systems and resources as instruments of nation-building and global competitiveness.

Meanwhile, in view of the coming elections, the Senate has passed on Third Reading Senate Bill No. 3570, also known as the Early Voting Act of 2010. The bill seeks to increase people's participation and relieve congestion of polling stations on Election Day. The bill also seeks to protect voters of election hotspots with history of election violence, and allow sectors such as media, detainees, prisoners and officers of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology to exercise their right to vote earlier than the actual voting day, May 10.

The last week of session saw the passage of Senate Bill No. 1476, or the Freedom of Information Act of 2010. The bill mandates all government agencies to make available to the public all information concerning official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as government research findings, used as basis for policy development.

Saying that the last few days of session were "extremely challenging" for him and his colleagues, Enrile said that the Chamber had to contend with some issues in the midst of passing several very important pieces of legislation.

Also approved on Third Reading was Senate Bill No. 3576, providing for the payment of survivorship benefits to the surviving legitimate spouse of a deceased retired Chairman or Commissioner of the Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Commission on Elections, and the Ombudsman.

On the other hand, among the bills that were signed into law by the President were R.A. 9727, mandating the mainstreaming of climate change into government policy formulations; the Anti-Child Pornography Act; and R.A. 9803, encouraging the donation of food for charitable purposes; and the Pre-Need Code of 2008.

The Senate also approved over four hundred House bills establishing high schools, including state universities and colleges, granting franchises, and converting roads.

The 14th Congress which adjourned on February 5 before the start of the campaign period will resume on May 31 for the canvassing of the Presidential and Vice Presidential election.

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