2012: A historic year of trials and triumphs – Belmonte

THE year 2012 was a rainbow of challenges which only proved the collective strength and determination of both the government and Filipino people to pursue national reformation, House speaker Feliciano Belmonte said.

Following the “straight path” set by the Aquino leadership, Congress — a conglomeration of cultural and politically diverse members — moved in unity, promoting national interest through socio-economic and political policy reforms, he said.

The foremost signature moves pursued and achieved during the first and second regular sessions of Congress were the timely approval of the nation’s spending statutes or the General Appropriations Act which relegated re-enacted budgets to the bins of history.

Bemonte said the most recent of vital legislations are the Kasambahay Bill which has been signed into law, the decades-old, most debated and thought-to-be divisive Reproductive Health bill ratified by both chambers of Congress and now passed as RA 10354, as well as the recently enacted Sin-tax statute substantially increasing taxes on alcohol-based drinks and cigarettes to benefit the health care programs of government. The latter is now also a law which will be implemented on the first day of 2013.

Both of the latter measures ignited public debates that betrayed clear divides among supporters and critics.

He claimed that despite the threats these measures may have initially brought on, a unified vision won out in the end — the urgency of fighting poverty through total human resource development and an all-out war against graft and corruption.

Belmonte said about 13 measures of national interest and some seven local bills are awaiting the signature of the President. Most recently also passed into law was the Act defining and penalizing enforced or involuntary disappearance.

He disclosed that among those nearing enactment into law, now pending in conference committees, among others, are bills: 1) requiring all registered voters to have their biometric captured to cleanse the electoral process; 2) prohibiting acts of discrimination against women; 3) proposed early voting for members of media; 4) strengthening tripartism, amending the Labor Code; 5) prohibiting racial, ethnic and religious discrimination; 6) and the proposed Act strengthening conciliation-mediation as a voluntary mode of dispute settlement.

Also pending in the conference committee are judicial reform measures that include the establishment of additional branches of regional trial courts and municipal trial courts to ensure that justice is made accessible to all citizens.

Also acted on were local bills establishing and upgrading national high schools and vocational schools to emphasize the constitutional mandate of putting focus on education.

He said the House likewise adopted numerous Resolutions, Concurrent Resolutions, and Joint Resolutions of various subjects and issues, including the oversight functions of the legislature in the implementations of laws. The House is set to resume sessions January 21.

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