Press Release
June 4, 2020

Senate adjourns sine die; Passes vital measures

The Senate on Thursday, June 4, 2020, adjourned sine die the first regular session of the 18th Congress with the passage of several important legislation, including measures that will enable the country and the Filipino people cope with the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III in his closing speech expressed his gratitude for the cooperation of his fellow senators in shepherding and shaping the legislative outputs of the Senate and for actively participating either physically in the session hall or virtually via teleconferencing during the enhanced community quarantine period.

"I stand with the Senate in the creation of a legislative agenda that is committed to saving lives; maintaining growth in the economy; and--for as long as the Corona virus poses a threat to the world--by unifying government policy in anticipation for living in a new world," Sotto said in his speech.

The Senate, upon the resumption of its session last May 4, amended its rules to allow plenary sessions and committee hearings to be conducted via teleconferencing. This was done after Metro Manila was placed under an extended enhanced community quarantine to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the challenging situation, senators still managed to perform their legislative work and passed several measures that would benefit the people particularly Senate Bill (SB) 1418 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which was signed into law on March 24, 2020.

The Senate during the hybrid plenary session also passed on third reading SB 1541 authorizing the President, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of Education, to move the start of the school year during a state of emergency or calamity.

The measure which seeks to amend RA 7797 or An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) Days to Not More Than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days is intended to protect students, teachers and non-teaching school personnel from the threat of Covid-19.

Also approved during its hybrid plenary session was Senate Bill 1354 which aims to impose longer prison sentences and larger fines for individuals, who will commit perjury, and Senate Bill 1318 which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 10068 (The Organic Agriculture Act of 2010).

Early this year, Senate Bill 1083 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which repeals the Human Security Act of 2007 and Senate Bill 1233, which expands the use of the legal assistance fund to cover the various costs of OFWs facing legal issues, were also approved on third and final reading.

Since the 18th Congress opened last July 2019 senators filed more than 1,500 proposed measures that are currently in various stages of the legislative process.

The Senate also passed eight bills that were enacted into law. These are RA 11462 (Postponing the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections); RA 11463 (An Act Establishing Malasakit Centers In all Department Of Health Hospitals In The Country); RA 11464 (An Act extending the availability of the 2019 appropriations to Dec. 31, 2020); RA11465 (General Appropriations Act of 2020); RA 11466 (Salary Standardization Law of 2019); RA 11467 (Increasing excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes); RA 11468 (National Day Of Remembrance For Road Crash Victims, Survivors, And Their Families) and RA 11469 (The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act).

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1086 which seeks to establish the Philippine High School for Sports and Senate Bill 1224, which seeks to institutionalize good manners and right conduct in the school curriculum are now awaiting the signature of the President.

The chamber also adopted more than 52 resolutions. Most noteworthy were Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 37 expressing the sense of the Senate for the President to reconsider his plan to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States; SRN 39 asking the Supreme Court to rule on whether or not the concurrence of the Senate is necessary in the abrogation of a treaty previously concurred in by the Senate and SRN 41 urging the national government to release all available funds under the GAA of 2020 to pump prime the economy in response to the President's declaration of a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines.

The upper chamber, through the Senate Blue Ribbon and other committees, conducted various investigations on several issues, including the controversial early release of heinous crime convicts under the Good Conduct Time Allowance; the so-called "ninja-cops" involved in the recycling of confiscated illegal drugs; the fraudulent medical claims with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth); and the alleged money laundering, crimes, and other nefarious activities associated with the operations of POGOs in the country.

The Senate also convened into a committee of the whole last May to get an overview of the country's status and progress in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sotto before closing the session, also paid tribute to the frontliners and his fellow civil servants from health to sanitation, from social welfare to public transport, from local governments to police personnel for their contribution during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Let me assure the Filipino people that the Senate is here to ensure that government continues to serve the public's interest. But let me also say that as dutiful citizens, the Filipino, must likewise, contribute to this endeavor," he added.

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