Press Release
December 18, 2013

Senate adjourns session

The Senate will go on a month-long Christmas break on December 18 and will resume regular sessions on January 20, next year. Since the start of the 16th Congress last June, the senators have filed a total of 2,047 senate bills and 419 senate resolutions so far, which are all in various stages of legislation. Senate President Franklin Drilon said he considers the Chamber's biggest accomplishment this year was it being able to respond to the urgent needs of victims of past calamities by providing sizeable amounts of funding to capacitate the government's relief and rehabilitation efforts.

"Among the funding is the P14.6 billion supplemental budget which was sourced from savings made from the unreleased 2013 Priority Development Assistance Fund and the extension by one more year of the validity of the P12 billion 2013 calamity-related funds," he said.

Drilon also emphasized that it had approved the passage of the P2.264 trillion national budget on record time, which contains around P117.8 billion appropriations for the rehabilitation of calamity-stricken areas.

The amount includes a P20 billion rehabilitation fund, P80 billion in unprogrammed funds to serve as standby authorization for sending foreign grants to victims of typhoon Yolanda; and a calamity fund of P13 billion, which along with a P4.8 billion quick response fund will be used for future contingencies.

Sen. Chiz Escudero, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, affirmed Drilon's statement, saying that the senators were "conscious of the fact that the timely passage of the budget is the key to fuel not only the entire government machinery but also to our capability and capacity as a nation, especially in this challenging time."

For his part, Escudero said that the Senate Finance Committee, along with the House Committee on Appropriations and the Commission on Audit will strictly monitor the disbursement of the calamity funds, with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) requiring quarterly reports to be posted on the DBM website for transparency purposes.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said that it was indeed a productive year for the Senate, which aside from passing the 2014 budget, had intensively investigated the pork barrel scam and initiated discussions on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

"The Senate as an institution continued to be a guardian of the people by investigating controversial issues like the pork barrel scam, the power rate hike, the sex-for-flight scandal and the like. The Chamber also made history by scrapping the entire pork barrel system which perpetuated corruption in the highest levels of government," he stated.

In relation, Drilon pointed out that the senators have started tackling the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, which is now in advanced stages of legislation, before they adjourned for recess.

"The FOI Bill would enable the public to access official information, thus encouraging them to participate actively in the governance process. The passage of the bill into law is crucial in the fight against corruption because it enables the people to hold their leaders accountable for their actions," Drilon said. Cayetano also lauded the sponsorship of the FOI bill, of which he is one of the primary authors and movers, saying that the FOI bill "will empower all Filipinos to be individual graft-busters and will greatly increase transparency in government."

Drilon later said that he is confident that the FOI bill will be passed "before the first quarter of the next year."

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