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Super majority in Congress should be more productive

POLITICAL allies of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have a supermajority in Congress, and yet they have missed an opportunity to pass many of his priority bills. At his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) nearly a year ago, the President presented a lengthy list of bills needed to recover from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and to put the Philippines back on track to be an upper-middle-income country in a few years.

That legislative wish list ranged from digitalization that could curb corruption and reduce red tape to more rapid development of renewable energy. This July when President Marcos gives his second SONA, he will likely add to his list of priority bills. As reported in the media, one of the new measures will call for a sovereign wealth fund that will bear the word “maharlika,” an apparent nod to the President's father.

So far, though, only four bills out of about 20 mentioned during the first SONA have been approved by Congress. Worse, only three have been signed into law. Also, the number of priority bills more than doubled over the past months since the Legislative-Executive Advisory Council (Ledac) had started meeting.

One of those enacted bills was the postponement of the youth council and village elections, which lawmakers argued would save money and free up resource1s needed for economic recovery programs. But when it became evident that postponing those elections would turn out to be more costly — to account for additional Filipinos reaching voting age — lawmakers ditched their argument and said the postponement was merely their prerogative. That law was challenged in the Supreme Court, and without a ruling, those elections have been effectively postponed.

The lawmakers' output disappoints those expecting Congress to support the economic recovery and development plans of the President, whose campaign slogan was “unity.” To many, that meant unity in purpose. But Congress seems to be out of step with the President.

Only half done

In a recent statement, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez reported that the House of Representatives had passed 31 out of the 42 priority bills identified by the President and Ledac. And in a story published in this newspaper, Mr. Romualdez said he was “proud of our collective accomplishment…” He was apparently referring to his colleagues in the House, although the speaker was silent about the senators.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Photo from House of Representatives of the Philippines FB pageSpeaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Photo from House of Representatives of the Philippines FB page

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Photo from House of Representatives of the Philippines FB page
Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Photo from House of Representatives of the Philippines FB page

To be proud seems like an odd thing to say. As everyone knows, the House and Senate vote on every bill, and both chambers approve all measures before they go to the executive branch for the President's signature. The fact that the House churned out so many bills means that the work is only half done.

Also, the speaker comes off like he was blaming the delay on the Senate, which is also controlled by his and the administration's political allies. But in the past, bills tended to move slower in the Senate, which has fewer members who are more thorough in crafting legislation than the congressmen.

Speaker Romualdez could have something to brag about if Congress had a better record than just four bills passed. He may need to spend more time with his counterpart, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, instead of tagging along with his cousin, President Marcos, so much, especially on many of the latter's foreign trips.

Of course, Mr. Romualdez could say he does not control the Senate. And yet, that also applies to the executive branch, which is headed by President Marcos. At least the House speaker and the Senate president are in the same branch of government.

As President Marcos had said, the people who accompany him abroad, including the speaker, are helpful in promoting the Philippines. We do not doubt that. It just seems that Mr. Romualdez, along with the rest of Congress, could be more productive if he spent more time on legislative work. He should not be anyone's sidekick, not even the President's.

If Speaker Romualdez wants to be truly proud of something, he should see to it that the work is done all the way.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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