Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday vowed to speed up the passage of bills aimed at mitigating the ill effects of the pandemic in the economy.
He also expressed his gratitude to the men and women of the House of Representatives, including its members and workers, for keeping the legislative mill running despite the limitations and challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the House suspended its session on Tuesday to honor former President Benigno Aquino III, who was once a member of the chamber representing Tarlac.
Deputy Speaker Juan Pablo Bondoc announced the suspension of the session.
“In deference to the passing of former President Benigno S. Aquino, who is also a member of the House of Representatives in the 11th, 12th, and 13th Congress, the session is suspended until 3 o’clock in the afternoon, tomorrow, July 28,” Bondoc said.
On June 24, Aquino died in his sleep due to renal disease secondary to diabetes.
A day after Aquino's death, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a 10-day period of mourning that lasted until July 3.
Velasco said in a statement in response to President Duterte's request to Congress to pass several bills in his last State of the Nation Address: "The House of Representatives is ready to help and cooperate with President Duterte in pushing for pieces of legislation that will help navigate the country and the economy amid the ongoing pandemic."
"This is a must, and we must heed the call of the President in order to bring back normalcy in the lives of our countrymen and help our economy recover and flourish again following a severe beating from the global health crisis," Velasco said.
"We must not only ensure that our economy is ready to reopen, but more importantly we must prepare our people for this reopening. We must help our people feel confident that they will have jobs and livelihood opportunities and assure them that cures, and proper health care will always be available when they need it," he added.
Velasco said: "We commend the President for his humility in acknowledging that there are things that his administration needs to accomplish in the next 12 months despite his remarkable achievements in the last five years—from free college education to universal health care, free irrigation, trust fund for coconut farmers, ease of doing business, among others."
In the final stretch of the Duterte presidency, Velasco said the House of the 18th Congress is committed to pursue the remaining measures in the President’s legislative agenda, with focus on strengthening the country’s health care system and restoring jobs lost to the pandemic.
“On a personal note, I would like to take this chance to thank each of you – Deputy Speakers, the Majority Leader, the Minority Leader, all the hardworking Committees, and its Members, our Representatives,
House officials, the Secretariat, and our congressional staff – for your service to the country,” the Speaker said in his speech at the opening of the third and last regular session of the 18th Congress.
“This pandemic continues to be the greatest challenge to governments all over the world, and despite all the sacrifices and risks to your own personal health and safety, we have kept, and will keep, the legislative mill running,” the House leader added.
Velasco also gave special thanks to the hardworking chairpersons and members of standing and special committees in the legislative chamber, whom he described as the “House’s true workhorses.”
He said the passion for legislative work and commitment to public service of these committee chairs and members “serve as an inspiration from which we all must draw collective strength in this last stretch of the 18th Congress.”
“My dear colleagues, we have accomplished so much, and we can accomplish so much more if we are united. We would not have achieved all these without your help," he said.
The Speaker added: “Truly, it is an honor to be your peer at this crucial time in our nation’s history when the mettle of leadership is tested by the fire of crisis and urgency. Thank you very much for your diligence and tireless support."
With the collective efforts of House members and employees, much-needed emergency pandemic response measures were passed during Velasco’s leadership despite certain political challenges.
These pandemic response measures include Bayanihan 3, a third economic stimulus measure that aims to directly assist Filipinos and Resolution of Both Houses Number 2, seeking to empower the present and future Congresses with authority to relax economic restrictions in the Constitution to create new jobs, and boost sources of gross domestic product.
For the second regular session, the House approved 501 bills on third reading, 131 resolutions and reached a total of 803 approved measures, 72 of which were enacted into laws.
It also passed 20 out of 30 measures in the Common Legislative Agenda of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council or LEDAC, consisting mostly of the legislative priorities of President Duterte.
Five out of these 20 measures were enacted into law, while the rest were transmitted to the Senate for its corresponding action.